Saturday, January 29, 2011

Soda Bread

Tried some soda bread today to go with leftover roast chicken soup. I used a recipe from the Cbeebies cooking programme "I Can Cook." It's straightforward as it's designed to be able to be made by pre-schoolers and actually tasted pretty good - on the second tasting! First taste seemed a bit odd, but after that it was fine - especially nice warmed up again in the oven.

* 75g plain flour
* 100g wholemeal flour
* 25g/1 heaped teaspoon oats
* 1 ½ tsp caster sugar
* ½ tsp salt (optional)*
* ½ tsp baking soda
* 2 level tbsp linseeds
* 170-180ml natural yoghurt

Step 1

Before cooking, wash your hands and put on an apron. Weigh and measure the ingredients.
Step 2

Place some baking paper on to a baking tray. Put the plain flour, the wholemeal flour and the oats into a bowl and stir together with a fork. Measure in the linseeds and stir again. Now measure the sugar, baking soda and salt* into the flour mix and stir.
Step 3

Now add most of the yoghurt, you may not need it all. You want a soft dough, not too wet. Stir with the fork until the mix starts to come together.
Step 4

Tip the mixture out onto a lightly floured surface and make it into a ball. Put the round loaf onto the baking tray, flatten slightly with your hand then mark a deep X on the top using the knife.
Step 5

Make sure to cut almost all the way to the bottom of the dough, so that the middle of the bread cooks all the way through. Finish by brushing the top with yoghurt.
Step 6

You will need to ask a grown-up to help with this part. Place in a pre-heated oven at 200°C fan oven/220ÂșC/Gas 7 for 20-25 minutes until golden and crisp on the top.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hmmm parkin...

Had a naughty slice of parkin this morning - as Leigh said, I'm not sure how leaving it for the rest of the week is going to make it any better! Dense and dry. Oh dear. The texture reminds me of overcooked cakes, but I only left it in for the time recommended in the recipe book. Maybe it's supposed to be like that...although I suspect that my substitution of oats for oatmeal (couldn't find any in Asda) may be the culprit. Need to try again with the right ingredients!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Not quite National Trust...

Following a successful trip to the Sudbury Hall Museum of Childhood last summer, my mother-in-law kindly signed us up for National Trust membership. This came in very handy on our hols to Yorkshire and today we motored on down to Calke Abbey, which is about 25 minutes drive for us. We've been there before - last spring we went to have a look around, but the weather was pants so we had a very enjoyable car picnic and then meandered round the craft fair which was there before coming home.

Today we intended to see the garden...only to find out it isn't open until 26th February... Anyway, we have a play in the playground (Zachary and Leo very happy about the swings!) and then ended up in the shop and cafe. Something tells me though that we're not quite National Trust material... We had mentioned to Zachary that if he was good, we might buy him a small toy in the shop - turn around and he'd dragging a boule set, tennis rackets and a Diabolo across the floor! Removal of said items caused a few screams and quick removal from the shop! In the cafe, Leo was only happy when he was stuffing his face, Zachary played at squirting apple juice from the carton, then attempted to drink my tea milk straight from the jug. He also wanted to leave with the pencils they leave out to amuse children while they're eating and licked my piece of flapjack when I said he couldn't have it because he had his own piece! Nice. (although I did then eat his piece in retaliation!)

National Trust - what have you let yourselves in for???

Also making me laugh this week is one of the presents we gave Zachary for Christmas. It's a Leapfrog electronic pad which helps children learn to write their letters and teach them the associated phonics. There's a drawing space on the pad which has a grid of red lights behind it, which flash in defined patterns to show you how the letters are formed.

There's a section with games on there - one of which asks the user to follow a trail of lights around the pad to draw a surprise picture. This game always starts with the phrase 'put your pen on the blinking light. Follow the blinking light.' Well...surely no need for that kind of language!!!

That'll learn me - Parkin

I really should read recipes all the way through to the end before I decide to make them. This is something which has occurred to me several times over my cooking experiences and today, bouyed by the success of yesterday's Swiss roll, I had time and thought I'd make some parkin to eat later. It sounds lovely - "a dark and moist sticky cake," made in a similar way to gingerbread but with the addition of oatmeal.

It was all very straightforward, mix went into the oven and just as I was reading through the post-oven instructions, already with visions of Leigh and me settling down with a cup of tea and slice of parkin later, I read the final sentence. Grrrrrr.

225g plain flour
a good pinch of salt
1 tbspn ground ginger
1 tbspn baking powder
225g medium oatmeal
100g unsalted butter
100g dark muscavado sugar
175g golden syrup
175g black treacle
1 medium egg
4 tbspns milk
25g chopped stem ginger or mixed peel (optional - I had some crystallised ginger in the cupboard and used that)

a 20cm square cake tin, greased with butter and lined with greaseproof paper (I have a super duper adjustable square cake tin which can make lots of different sizes of square and rectangular cakes - just the ticket! Had to line it carefully though to make sure nothing leaked through the slits in the supports which allow the adjustments)

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/350F/gas 4. Sift the flour, salt, ginger and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in the oatmeal.

2. Gently heat the butter, sugar, syrup and treacle in a medium-sized pan, stirring frequently until melted and smooth. Beat the egg with the milk until just combined. Pour the melted mixture and the egg mixture into the bowl. Add the chopped ginger or peel if using, then mix everything together with a wooden spoon to make a thick batter. Put into the prepared tin and spread evenly.

3. Bake in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until firm to the touch. Remove from the oven - the top may have sunk slightly - and run a round-bladed knife around the inside of the tin to loosen the cake. Stand the tin on a wire cooling rack, leave to cool completely, then turn the cake out and wrap it in foil. KEEP FOR A WEEK TO MATURE BEFORE CUTTING!!!

A week??!!!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Swiss Roll

Having reasonably recently become more enthusiastic about baking and cooking in general, one of my favourite 'reality' programmes last year was The Great British Bake-Off. And for Christmas, I very kindly received the Great British Book of Baking which compiles lots of traditional British recipes with some of the more special bakes made by the contestants. The book covers biscuits and tea time treats, bread, tarts and flans, pies, cakes, puddings and fancy pastries. It is glorious! I have yet to read all the loveliness inside, but made a start last week by making Jasminder's chicken pie and promptly forgot to take a photo of it! Especially annoying as I had even gone to some effort with my presentation and cut out some pastry leaves to decorate the top with!

That recipe will hopefully see the light of day again some time - it was delicious.

This week I plan to have a go at making some parkin and today I tried my hand at a Swiss roll. I was a bit apprehensive about this - something about rolling up the sponge seemed very delicate and I think we all know that I am not!

But the recipe seems fairly straight forward (rolling aside) and it was. The rolling went okay and has given me the confidence that I should be able to make a better job of it next time. It wasn't awful, just a bit big and untidy. Far from the very neat Swiss roll pictured in the recipe book! Also I didn't have any raspberry or strawberry jam to hand and used some homemade damson instead. This worked okay, but was a bit too tart really so I'll try a sweeter jam next time. And I had forgotten how easily and quickly whipping cream whips - even by hand. The last cream I tried to whip was double cream and by comparison you really only have to show whipping cream the whisk and it's done!

3 medium eggs, at room temperature
75g caster sugar
75g plain flour
pinch of salt
6 tbspns raspberry or strawberry jam
200ml whipping cream
extra sugar for sprinkling

a 20cm x 30cm Swiss roll tin, greased with butter and lined with greaseproof paper

1. Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/425F/gas 7. Put the eggs and sugar into a large bowl or the bowl of a food mixer and whisk on high speed until the mixture is very thick, pale and mousse-like. This will take at least 5 minutes. To test whether the mixture is ready, lift out the whisk; if a very distinct ribbon-like trail of mixture falls back into the bowl, you can stop whisking.

2. Sift the flour and salt on to a sheet of greaseproof paper, then sift half of it a second time straight into the bowl. Use a large metal spoon and very gently fold in until you can no longer see any specks or streaks of flour, particularly checking the bottom of the bowl.

3. Transfer the mixture to the prepared tin and spread evenly (ha, ha! Mine wasn't!). Bake in the preheated oven until golden brown and springy to touch - about 9-10 minutes. While the sponge is cooking, dust a sheet of greaseproof paper with caster sugar. As soon as the sponge is cooked, flip it out on to the paper and lift off the tin. Carefully peel off the lining paper. With a large sharp knife, make a shallow cut about 2cm in from one of the short sides, then gently roll up the sponge from the end with the cut, using the greaseproof paper to help you. The cut will make rolling easier. Set the rolled-up sponge on a wire cooling rack and leave to cool completely.

4. When ready to fill, whip the cream. Unroll the sponge, trim off the edges, then spread with the jam. Top with the cream, spreading to within 3cm of the edges. Gently re-roll. Sprinkle with sugar to finish and eat immediately.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Totally infuriating and unbearably sweet

My children that is, not some new complicated cake! Zachary appears to have gone back to tantrums - we've had several this week. These are the full-on scream, hitting and kicking me variety. Fortunately the intense 'moment' of the tantrum is over quite quickly but then sobbing Zachary needs a hug to right himself. This would be fine except that one side effect of Leo's recent illness has been an overwhelming clinginess to me. Picture the scene - Leo playing happily in one corner of the room. I go to deal with a Zachary tantrum at the other end - Leo fine. I put Zachary on my lap to comfort him - cue screams of misery from Leo, a trek across the room to me and attempts to push Zachary off my lap. Oh dear!

Leo has seemed better the last couple of days - long may that continue!

So we have been dealing with a new level of Zachary testing boundaries when this happened at dinner. We had cake and custard (yum!) for pudding - Zachary loves custard with a passion. Leo had finished his pudding and was making hand gestures at the remains in my bowl and Leigh gave Leo some from his bowl. At this point Zachary holds up his bowl to Leigh. We both assumed he was asking for more custard, but when we asked Zachary, he said he wanted to share what he had left with Leo. I nearly cried it was so lovely. Have to remember this the next time he punches me....!

Oh, and Zachary has also discovered a love for snooker. Although he refers to it as shooting coloured balls into nests. And spends the entire time watching a match shouting "what colour next?"!