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

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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.

IMG_0012

Enjoy,

Lx

As promised: Recipe for vanilla cookies to make your Cookie Christmas tree!!! Better late than never……I hope!

Well apologies for the lateness of this recipe blog, those christmas days tend to run away with themselves don’t they.

The following recipe is what you will need to make the 3D cookie tree I mentioned in my last post. The recipe can be found on the back of the pack of star cookie cutters that I purchased from Lakeland http://www.lakeland.co.uk/14489/3D-Christmas-Cookie-Cutter-Set. The recipe is pretty spot on but I found the addition of vanilla bean paste instead of vanilla extract is a bit yummier and can also be bought from Lakeland.

Ingredients:

300g unsalted butter, softened

300g caster sugar

2 small eggs, beaten

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

a pinch of salt

600g plain flour, sifted

Method:

  1. First line some baking trays with baking parchment ready for your stars.
  2. In a bowl cream together your butter and sugar until light and creamy. Add the beaten eggs, vanilla and salt and mix well. Then gradually add your flour and mix until well incorporated. This can take a while as the mixture is quite dry. Worry not, persevere and it will come together.
  3. Once you have a dough pop it into a plastic bag and then pop it into the fridge to chill for at least an hour.
  4. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C (350 degrees F) or gas mark 4.
  5. Once your dough is chilled , roll it out to around 3-4 mm.
  6. Now time to cut out your stars. You will need 2 of each, only one of the teeniest star for the top though. Arrange them on your prepared trays. They don’t spread much so you can put a fair few on the trays. Even so it took me about 3 lots of 2 batches in the oven to cook them all. If you have a double oven. YAY.
  7. They take around 10-12 minutes to cook. Once they are firm and golden you can take them out of the oven. Do bear in mid the various sizes you are cooking, if you can do batches of similar size stars together so they cook together. You will need to adjust the time slightly for the biggest ones as well as the teeny ones but not by much (only a minute or so each side).
  8. Leave them to cool on the baking trays for around 10 minutes before moving to a wire rack to cool completely. If you are impatient like me and need the baking trays for the next batch. You can slide the baking sheet with your hot cookies onto a wire rack, but please, please be careful as they are hot and fragile (one or two of mine broke doing this!)
  9. Once you have all your cooked cookies and they have cooled down, you can assemble your tree. We used royal icing to stick ours together which works brilliantly until you try and eat your tree. Ours was stuck so well we had to go at the thing with a hammer!!! Your choice really, I would still use royal icing if you want your tree to be on display for a few days as we did. It kept really well for nearly a week on the kitchen table. If you want to eat it swiftly a butter icing will do or fondant icing as pictured below.

The picture below is of the one on the box from Lakeland. You can see our creation on my previous post (mine will get an inferiority complex if I post it here!!)

Enjoy,

Lx

 

 

 

Millionaire’s Shortbread

Every time I make this recipe I am always pleasantly surprised at how easy it is. The hardest part of it is the rather laborious task of stirring the caramel for 8 to 10 minutes, but to be honest if you put on some fab music (I can highly recommend the fabulous Susie Clarke) then 8 minutes or so is not so bad and can in fact be quite therapeutic.

The original recipe I used came from a Waitrose recipe booklet. Sad to say they have stopped making these fab little cook books, but great while it lasted. Anyway the original recipe was ok, great in fact, but me being me I had to tweak it, and now the recipe runs as follows:

For the shortbread base you will need:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 150g butter
  • 80g caster sugar

For the caramel topping you will need:

  • 1 can condensed milk
  • 75g butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp of golden syrup

For the final chocolate topping:

  • 50 – 100g chocolate depending on your preferences – my family likes around 50g milk chocolate.

Method.

The oven needs to be preheated to 180 degrees C, gas mark 4.
Grease and line a square tin of around 22cm x 22cm or similar type tins.
In a bowl put your flour and butter and then rub them together until your mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. If you have a food processor, lucky you! this then should take you only merest moments. Either way once you have your fine crumb mix, you need to add the 80g caster sugar and mix that through. The mixture should start to feel like it is coming together.

Pour this into your prepared tin, and push down firmly into an even compact layer. Pop this into the oven for around 20-25 minutes. I would highly recommend you start checking this at around the 15 minutes mark as an over zealous oven can ruin all your hard work. You need to look out for a nice even golden colour. Leave to cool in the tin.

Next is the tricky-ish bit.
In a good solid saucepan put your condensed milk, butter, 50g sugar and golden syrup and then heat gently until the butter is melted and the sugar is dissolved. Increase the heat and simmer, stirring vigorously for around 8-10 minutes, until your caramel has darkened to a fudge like colour.

You need to be on the ball with this one as any wandering off to answer the phone, do a quick text etc etc will result in a burnt bottom! Stir, stir, stir and make sure you have got that music going in the background. Also useful if you have family members/friends around. Get them to dance or otherwise entertain you. I discovered my three children can do a rather marvelous impression of Girls Aloud singing The Promise!!! The less said about my husbands dancing though, the better.

Once you have your caramel ready, pour this into your tin over the shortbread base. Leave to cool.

Word of warning: The caramel is comedically hot. If you get it on your hands/arms etc try to resist popping that into your mouth, as although it tastes really, really good, it will burn you. Best bet, cold water on the offending bit. Save the pan to lick later once cooled!

Once the caramel shortbread is cool you are ready to add your chocolate topping. The original recipe demanded a thick layer of dark 70% chocolate on the caramel. I find that too, too much. My family like about 50g melted milk chocolate drizzled over the caramel in a pleasing zig zag pattern, but really whatever your heart desires is fine with this. You could even scatter a few chopped nuts over the chocolate if you fancy.

Now if you can, this really needs to be refrigerated again to let the chocolate set, but no harm in having a small sliver – just to check it’s ok for everyone else you understand.

Enjoy

Lx

Welcome to my baking/family/crochet blog!

Hello my name is Lorna (slightly exhausted mother of three youths, wife to one husband, who happens to be a rather marvellous and all round good guy).

This blog was created because I rather like to cook. Due to the number of people in my household I am obliged to cook often, as they always appear to be starving!!!

My particular food lust is baking, bread in particular, but over the years I have got more and more intersted in all sorts of cooking. Thanks in part to programmes like Masterchef Australia as well as The Great British Bake Off. They have inspired me to try things that I haven’t baked since school or not baked at all.

I intend to write about recipes that have inspired me as well as failsafe recipes that never let me down. I will always reference the original if I have it. I often tweak recipes slightly but will try and include the original information as well as my additions. Over time I also hope to include the additions my family have made to our original hand written clark family handbook which contain fascinating details like how we like to cook our eggs!

2013/14 I have added crochet to my passions. Oh how I wish I had discovered crochet when my children were small. No matter, I have been making crochet items for friends who have recently been adding to their families as well as producing a small line of creatures for my sisters school. I have also made a selection of blankets for grown up offspring and a mega blanket for my bed. Love it.

Enjoy!

Lx