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

Excellent fruit bread, possibly healthy (probably not though!!)

UnicornWell, for goodness sake. How rubbish at this blogging lark am I. The plan was to bake and blog at least once a week, I think I am managing once a quarter. Hmmmmm, must do better. Hopefully it was worth the wait. Actually one of the reasons I have been slow to bake and blog is I have developed a bit of a passion for all things crochet. Thanks to a very dear friend who showed me how to hold the hook and youtube I am now able to conjure up blankets, baby shoes and as of this week a unicorn, an octopus and a baby owl!!

Right, now to get on with the recipe that I teased you all with in the title. Paul Holywood’s How to bake book has many yummy treats but one that I spotted recently looked especially appealing.  The recipe makes two reasonable sized loaves and to our delight also lasted really well. So often with homemade bread you only have a day or so before it goes stale. This bread lasted beautifully for a couple of days and in fact we were still eating it happily on day three and four (it was a little sturdy by then but still very much in the yummy category).

As ever I tweaked a bit, mainly because the dried fruits I had in the cupboard were not quite but nearly the requested in the recipe below. My version was mainly sultanas, peel and apricots as I had no raisins. As long as you add the recommended amount of dried fruit I see no reason why you can’t play around with this too. I’m going to add dried cranberries next time too. Yum 🙂

Anyway, here is the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 10g salt
  • 10g instant yeast
  • 40g unsalted softened butter
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs, beaten
  • 160 ml warm full fat milk
  • 160 ml cool water
  • 100g sultanas
  • 80g raisins
  • 60g chopped ready to eat dried apricots
  • 60g chopped mixed peel
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Optional icing:

  • 100g icing sugar, sifted
  • finely grated zest of one lemon
  • 2-3 tbsp water

Method:

  • If you have a food mixer I would use it. This recipe would be tedious if done completely by hand although not impossible if you are feeling full of energy and not afraid of getting a bit sticky.
  • In your bowl of the mixer, place your flour and put your salt on one side and the yeast in the other. Add the butter, sugar, eggs, milk and half the water and mix on slow speed using the dough hook. Once the dough starts coming together you can slowly add the rest of the water.
  • Mix on medium speed for 5 minutes. Your dough should be elastic and soft to touch. If not mix it for another two minutes.
  • Add your dried fruit and cinnamon and then mix for a further 2 minutes. I mixed mine for around ten minutes in total in the end to get that dough really elastic and soft.
  • Cover your bowl with a bit of cling film or your handy shower cap (you can pick these up on eBay for a quid or so for ten) Leave to rise for at least an hour probably two though. It wants to be at least double original size.
  • Meanwhile, line a couple of baking trays with baking paper
  • Once your dough is all awesome and huge, tip it out on to your floured surface and gently knock it back by folding it over a few times. Divide into two pieces. Shape each piece into a loaf shape and pop it onto it’s tray. Put these trays into plastic bags and leave them to prove again for an hour so they can double in size.
  • Preheat your oven to 210 degrees C.
  • When your dough has proved itself, pop in the oven for 20 minutes or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped on their bottoms. My oven is a bit aggressive so I find I need to turn it down to 190. Leave it on a wire rack to cool.
  • Once your bread has cooled a bit but still warm you can top with the icing, simply mix your icing sugar, zest and water together to a smooth batter and then brush this over the warm loaves. Leave to cool.
  • Slice and eat with a lovely cup of tea.

I stored these loaves in a large tupperware box happily for several days. I would think if you choose not to ice both, the second plain one would make gorgeous toast for a delicious breakfast.

Fruit bread and a cuppa

Enjoy,

Lx

Extra lemony lemon drizzle, soooooo yummy in your tummy :)

January is a tricky month to get motivated generally. Last week  my middle son asked me for a lemon drizzle cake. As he is my favourite child (don’t tell the others!) his wish was my command.

The following recipe was taken from Nigella’s How to be a Domestic Goddess. She has called it the Lemon syrup loaf cake, which is posh for lemon drizzle!

As ever I have tweaked it a teeny tiny bit and have also adjusted the cooking temperature as well. This has been a long period of trial and error for me. I usually find small cakes cook great in my oven but larger cakes can be a bit hit and miss for me. I will of course give you Nigella’s recommended temperature but for my Stoves range oven, fan assist I had to reduce the temperature 20-25 degrees C. Timings remained the same.

Ingredients:

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • zest of 1 lemon ( if you want the extra lemonyness add the zest of 2)
  • 175g self raising flour
  • 4 tablespoons of milk or for my version add 2 of milk and 2 of buttermilk
  • pinch of salt

23 x 13 x 7 cm loaf tin, buttered and lined with greaseproof

For the syrup:

  • Juice of 1 and a half lemons (about 4 tablespoons) although add more or less to taste
  • 100g icing sugar

Method:

  • Preheat your oven to 180 degrees C/gas mark 4. As I said in my intro you may need to adjust according to your oven.
  • Cream together your butter and sugar. Do spend a bit of time on this. The more you blend and mix the lighter the cake mixture will be. Cream until smooth and pale.
  • Beat your eggs and add them to the butter and sugar mixture. Add the zest too. Mix well.
  • Then add in your flour and salt, folding them in with a gently touch.
  • Finally add your milk or milk and buttermilk combo.
  • Spoon the mixture into your prepared loaf tin and bake for 45 minutes.
  • While your cake is cooking gently heat the lemon juice and icing sugar for your syrup until the icing sugar has dissolved.
  • Stick a skewer in to check it if cooked. It should come out clean if properly cooked.
  • Immediately skewer your cake all over to create holes that you can then drizzle your syrup into. Pour it slowly or even spoon it on taking care to make sure that the whole cake gets a good soaking.
  • Leave the cake in it’s tin to cool. Do not try and take it out of the tin before it’s cold or risk collapse. Having said that we have done this before. We were too hungry and it smelled too good, so although it collapsed it tasted great 🙂
  • According to Nigella this serves 8-10. In my household it tends to serve a family of five with one who doesn’t like lemon cake! Share if you must, but there is pleasure to be had with a couple of your favourite offspring, a pot of tea and a slab of this cake.

Enjoy,

Lx

Lemon drizzle cake

Really yummy, flatbreads with tomatoes and mozzarella. Perfect for a big family Saturday evening supper.

Mozzarella and Tomato flatbreadFirstly I should acknowledge Paul Hollywood. This recipe was gleaned from his book, How to Bake. When I was leafing through his book I saw the picture of these breads and thought immediately how much my pizza loving brood would enjoy these. I also felt they were a tad healthier than pizzas. When I made these we had them with salads, cold meats and cheeses. They are a great tear and share bread. The bread is best served fresh and warm from the oven but I did keep one for the next day and it refreshed beautifully in the oven. I sprinkled a little water on it and blasted it in a hot oven (200 c) for around 5-7 minutes. Generally though if you have a family of teens and young adults as I do the 4 loaves that this recipe makes will be eaten in one sitting, no problem :). You will need around 2 hours to have these breads ready for dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 500g Strong White flour
  • 10g Salt
  • 10g Instant Yeast
  • 400ml tepid water
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • Fine semolina for dusting if you have it, optional.
  • 2 balls of Mozzarella
  • 20 Cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
  • Dried oregano for sprinkling

Method:

  • Oil a 2-3 litre square plastic container.That is what Paul say’s however I do not own a square plastic container so used the large plastic mixing bowl that I have instead. I believe this worked fine. Use whatever you have in your kitchen, the container is used to prove your bread.
  • In a food mixer with the dough hook is the best way to make this bread. It is too wet to mix by hand. However if you are feeling adventurous, give it a go. I would love to hear from someone who has made this by hand and how well it worked.
  • Put your flour in your mixing bowl with the salt on one side and the yeast on the other side. Add around three quarters of the water and start to mix the dough on a low speed. As it starts to come together add the remaining water. Mix for around 5-8 minutes on a medium speed. At this stage your dough should be nice and stretchy. Now add your olive oil and mix for another 2 minutes.
  • Pop your dough into your oiled tub and cover with whatever you have to hand. I always use a trusty shower cap but cling film, a damp tea towel work well. I have also used a “bag for life” when I had nothing else and that worked too!
  • Leave it to prove itself for about an hour. You want the dough to double in size. Put it in a warm place out of draughts.
  • Line a couple of baking trays with baking parchment. When I made this bread last time I had run out of baking paper so just lightly oiled the sheets and that worked fine.
  • Dust your work surface generously with flour, adding semolina too if you have it. Gently tip out your dough onto the floured surface, unusually for dough you don’t want to knock it back but keep as much air in as possible. Coat the top of your dough with flour too. Cut the dough in half lengthways and then cut each half across in two. You will have 4 pieces of dough.
  • Gently stretch each piece a little bit and lay down onto your prepared sheets. 2 loaves per sheet.
  • Push 10 tomato halves into the breads. As you can see from my pictures I did not have enough tomatoes, worry not, use what you have! Tear your mozzarella into smallish pieces and push them into the bread in-between the tomatoes.
  • Sprinkle your breads with a little olive oil and then your oregano. I used some garlic infused olive oil for extra yumminess and mixed italian herbs. Noms.
  • Leave your bread to rest for around 15 minutes. Meanwhile pop your oven on to 210 degrees C.
  • Bake for 15-20 minutes.
  • Pop them onto a cooling rack but make sure to eat them whilst still warm.

Enjoy

 

Lx

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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