Friday, February 25, 2011

It's not deep, it's too lemony, and it has a strange, dry, crusty top

What is it? My treacle tart, sadly.

Yep, it looks like no treacle tart I've ever seen either. Unfortunately it was a recipe from my Great British Baking book, and their photo looks so appetising, so I'm wondering if it was me. I've not made one before, so had no real idea what the filling consistency should be like before it goes into the oven - the recipe didn't give any indication of what it should be like, but just said "if it's too runny, add more breadcrumbs..." How will I know if it's too runny??? My filling seemed very moist and lovely going into the oven, but came out very dry and crusty. Underneath the crust it was a bit more as I had expected, but the whole thing looked nothing like the sumptuous looking tart in the book.

I think the problem was that there was just not enough filling. I'll put the GBB recipe at the end, but it suggests using a 26cm deep ovenproof pie plate. Now I do not have one of these, but was thinking that 26cm sounded quite big (my usual cake tins are 8", which is 20cm, so I a vague idea of 26cm being a bit bigger), so decided to use my heart pie plate. However, on mixing up the filling - 6 heaped tablespoons of syrup plus 75g breadcrumbs - it became apparent that there was nowhere near enough. So, transferred pastry across to another, smaller pie plate, which it turns out is 23cm. Filling still doesn't seem to be enough. Had a look in Delia's Complete Cookery Course - she uses 6 tbspn syrup, 100g breadcrumbs, but only a 20cm pie plate. Aha. The treacle tart recipe I looked at on Nibblous has a filling comprising 225g golden syrup, 50g dark treacle, 220ml double cream, 75g breadcrumbs, lemon juice AND 2 eggs. For a 20-22cm tart. So surely the pie plate measurement in GBB is wrong? Did it mean 20cm and someone's handwriting got misread as 26cm???? Perhaps we shall never know...

The question now I brave enough to try again tomorrow as this pudding was to be for a dinner party. Alex? any suggestions???

Pastry :
220g plain flour
pinch of salt
1 tsp caster sugar
160g unsalted butter, chilled and diced
2-3 tbsn ice cold water

Filling :
6 rounded tbspn golden syrup
75g fresh white breadcrumbs
grated zest and juice of a large lemon

a 26cm deep ovenproof pie plate

Put the flour, salt and sugar into the bowl of a food processor and pulse for a couple of seconds until just combined. Add the pieces of butter and process until the mixture looks like fine crumbs. With the machine running, add 2 tbspn ice-cold water through the feed tube - the mixture should come together to make a ball of firm dough. If the mixture seems dry and crumbly and won't bind, add more water 1 tsp at a time.

Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill for 20 minutes. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured work surface (I used Rachel Allen's roll out between 2 pieces of clingfilm method - genius!) to a circle 3cm larger than your pie plate. Wrap the pastry around the rolling pin, drape it over the plate, then gently unroll it so it covers the plate. Press the pastry on to the base, pressing out any pockets of air. Trim off the excess with a sharp knife and chill while you make the filling.

Heat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5 (I went for 175C for my fan oven). Gently warm the syrup in a small pan until it becomes runny, then remove from the heat and stir in the breadcrumbs, lemon zest and juice. Leave to stand for 10 minutes; if the mixture seems very sloppy, add another spoonful of crumbs, but if it seems stiff and dry, add another spoonful of syrup. Spoon the filling into the pastry case without pressing down or compacting the mixture. Bake in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden.


Had to confiscate the Fisher Price garage this afternoon after Leo climbed it and stood on top doing a great impersonation of King Kong. He won't walk on his own, but he's climbing everything he can get his hands on!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fantastic choc chip cookie recipe!

Leigh dug this recipe out for me. The link is here - I'm not going to type it out again because it's quite long and their commentary is great as well. The cookies are lovely - chewy and crispy and a great flavour. Will definitely be making these again.

I did the first 8 or so cookies using the ball method, straight onto the cookie sheet. Here they are going in...

and coming out.

The rest of the dough I rolled into a very rough "log"

and this was chilled for a couple of hours before Leigh cut it into 'discs' (I use that word carefully - my log was artistically rustic!) and baked.

Going in...

and out.

Both sets came out really well, although I overcooked some of the disc cookies. I was expecting them to be slightly browner than perhaps they needed to be, so slightly less chewy in the centre than they might have been. But still gorgeous. Definitely using this again!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

One day I will stop boring you with tales of potty training...

...but until then!

Today we had some friends over in the afternoon to play. A short while in I realised Zachary had gone to the utility room at the back of the kitchen. There is also a toilet there, and his usual reason for going into that room is nefarious. However today when I went to investigate, I found Zachary sitting on the toilet (having moved the little step to get up there), pants and trousers round his ankles announcing that he'd done a wee all on his own and didn't need my help. He did this all a further 3 times in the afternoon - brilliant progress. He hasn't fallen down the toilet yet, although he has joked about it! And slight setback on the poos today - 2 in pants. Never mind, maybe next time.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wee wee wee all the way home

Potty training is going well. Wees still getting in the potty - numbers 2's still a bit more (s)hit and miss. One in, one in pants today, which actually isn't too bad going.
Zachary does seem to wee an awful lot though - perhaps I'm just giving him too much to drink!

Today - I put him in pull-ups and pants just in case there was a poo issue when we were out. We went to see Leigh's dad at work, leaving home about half 9 and got there about 10. Zachary did a wee there. We left around half 10, drove 10 mins or so down the road and stopped at a pet store for some chicken feed. As we chose our feed, Zachary announced he needed another wee. Fortunately he was able to hold it while I paid and we raced to McDonalds. Weed. We stopped for a drink there, leaving about 10 past 11. As I got Leo out of the pushchair and into the car, Zachary said he needed another wee. Struggled with not telling him to just go in his pull-up, got Leo back out of the car and we hightailed it back to McDonalds. Another wee. Drove into Derby, met my friend for lunch at the Cathedral cafe and Zachary did another wee immediately on arrival. That's 4 in the space of just over 2 hours. Perhaps he's not properly emptying his bladder, or drinks just go straight through him.

Less wees, this afternoon, but the pull-up was wet when we got home from town. Unable to determine at which point this had occurred but we had been in the car for a while, having dropped off a birthday present before leaving for home.

We have a 3-hour car trip ahead of us on Saturday morning. Potty and laybys at the ready!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Happy Valentine's Day

For dinner last night we had...

chicken and leek pie in my new brilliant heart-shaped Le Creuset pie dish (which as ie dishes goes is actually quite large...fortunately Leigh saved my pie filling from looking inadequate with a healthy injection of peas!)

individual chocolate cakes with homemade coffee ice cream (Leigh made the ice cream, I provided the cakes)

and for snacking later, choccie biccies! Mmmmmmm.

(you can't really tell, but they've got the words 'sweet heart' stamped into the top)

The towel fits!

Hurrah - towel fits Zachary nicely so should be good for his friend too...and it survived a wash this morning! Nothing has dropped off, all the stitching still appears to be intact, and the dark blue towel didn't run and make the yellow towel a nice muddy colour. Phew.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

It's finished... a check for size on Zachary tomorrow. Shoulders sewn up, hood sewn on, buttons sewn on, insignia made and sewn on, fire engine sewn on. Done. Hopefully won't fall apart on first wash!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Queen of ever so slightly dodgy craft

I love crafty things and making bits and pieces - where I can! Last year, Zachary received a brilliant homemade hooded towel from one of our friends. She took her inspiration from this blog, and made a fantastic bear towel - here I am modelling it

So, with one of Zachary's friends having a birthday coming up, I thought I'd make him a hooded towel like Fireman Sam as the little boy is completely Fireman Sam mad. For those of you who don't know the erstwhile hero of Pontypandy, here he is

Initially I looked for a navy big towel for the wrap around part of the towel, with a yellow towel to go on top like a helmet. Don't get me started on where to get a yellow towel from - certainly none of the usual places! I found one on Ebay, but with an estimated delivery time of 8-10 working days, I had a look in Long Eaton too and found one in a very quaint shop which sells all sorts of random linens and clothing. On looking closer at Fireman Sam and thinking I wanted to try and make the towel look as much like him as I could (I think this is my failing with a lot of crafty things - too much detail!), I decided to try making a tabard style towel rather than wrap around because it would be easier to show the buttons... Yes, I know, don't laugh.

Anyway, sewing machine in hand I started tonight. Cut out head hole, stitched round it with bias tape to prevent fraying - with no swearing thanks to this little video

(I love the 'oh no!' face)

, cut yellow towel, stitched top of hood and pinned to bottom towel. Discovered I have made the head hole far to wide and the towel is just going to slip right over this little boy's shoulders. Blast. Never mind, Leigh had a good idea and it should be savable - watch this space!

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

We're sticking with it this time...

Having another go at potty training with Zachary. I've had a few attempts since our first blast last November, but not really stuck at it. This time however, Zachary's move to the big boys and girls' room at nursery after Easter is (almost) imminent and nursery seem keen for him to be potty trained by then. To be honest, so am I!

So we started off again at the weekend, had a couple of accidents, but then Leigh and I cottoned onto Zachary's pattern of behaviour immediately pre-wee. He either does an increasingly energetic little dance (especially if he's in the middle of something he doesn't want to be disturbed from), or he goes into the corner of the room, or somewhere away from the rest of us. That realised, we managed the rest of the weekend getting his wees into the potty. Hurrah! He seems quite keen to wee on the potty which is good, although not quite ready for poos yet (a shiny gold chocolate coin has been promised for the first poo in potty). And yesterday he even announced he needed a wee, followed by actually producing a wee! Up til then, Leigh and I had been initiating everything and suggesting he sits on the potty for a try.

So we are making small steps, but positive ones and I feel encouraged. I'm going to stick with it now until Zachary's happy with it all. I'm tending to fill the morning with activities outside the house (and he wears pull-ups for these) and then spending the afternoon in the house with Zachary just in pants. This works well because Leo now only seems to need one nap a day and is generally taking it just after lunch for 1-2 hours, so I can concentrate on Zachary for a bit. We have guests tomorrow afternoon, which usually causes a bit of excitement...we'll see how it goes!

In other news, Leigh has found possibly the most invaluable piece of advice ever on the internet ...

Sunday, February 06, 2011


Here is my next attempt from my lovely Great British Book of Baking - the thyme and sun-dried tomato rolls made by one of the contestants, David. These were to go with some homemade pea and roasted garlic soup (for which, thank you very much Nigel Slater!)

As usual, my rolls look nothing like the very neat and splendid looking photo in the book, but they tasted good. And the dough rose properly and proved properly - yay! That's because I did the kneading in the food mixer... I really have a thing against kneading, but it's one of those skills which I should practise so that I can pass it down to the boys - should they ever decide they need to make bread! In a similar way, I never make pastry by hand now as it's just so easy to do it in the Magimix. Consequently I haven't done rubbing in for wait, there's a bit in my scone recipe. I must make sure that the boys have these life skills, otherwise the machines will just take over!!!

350g strong white bread flour
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet of easy-blend yeast
4 tbspn olive oil
200ml lukewarm water
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
6 sun-dried tomato halves, drained of oil and chopped

a large baking sheet, greased with butter

1. Combine the flour, salt, sugar and yeast in a mixing bowl or the bowl of a large food mixer (I used our Kitchen Aid). Add the oil, and, using your hand or the dough hook attachment of the mixer on a low speed, work in enough lukewarm water to make a soft but sticky dough. Knead until smooth and pliable - about 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes in the mixer. Knead in the thyme leaves and the sun-dried tomatoes, then cover the bowl with a snap-on lid or clingfilm and leave to rise until doubled in size - about an hour at room temperature.

2. Punch down the risen dough to deflate, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead lightly for a few seconds, then divide the dough into 9 pieces. Shape each portion into a neat ball and arrange well apart on the baking tray. Cover the tray lightly with clingfilm or a clean, dry teatowel and leave to rise until doubled in size - about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile heat the oven to 190C/175C fan/375F/gas 5. Uncover the rolls and bake in the heated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until a good golden brown.

4. Transfer to a wire rack and leave to cool.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

More soda bread - Nigella's Oaten Rolls

Made for dinner with friends last Thursday. They have a lovely, almost sweet flavour, which I think comes from the stout. I did think the mix was far to sticky to work at the time (I 'may' have added a little too much buttermilk!), but it baked well and the rolls came out fine. And no kneading!

400g wholemeal flour
100g oats (not instant) plus 2 teaspoons
2 tsps sea salt flakes or 1 tsp pouring salt
2 tsps bicarbonate of soda
300ml stout
150ml buttermilk or runny plain yoghurt
4 x 15ml tbspn groundnut oil
4 x 15ml tbspn runny honey

- Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.

- Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or a piece of Bake-O-Glide.

- In a bowl, mix the flour, oats, salt and bicarb.

- In a jug, mix the stout, buttermilk (or yoghurt), oil and honey. For ease, measure out the oil in an American quarter cup (60ml) or espresso cup, and then do ditto with the honey, as the oil lining will stop the honey from sticking. Stir the liquids together with a wooden spoon.

- Add the liquids to the dry ingredients and stir with the wooden spoon to combine - you will get a sandy porridge, rather than a dough; at first, it will seem too runny but then, as the bicarb goes to work, it will become first moussy and then heavy like damp sand.

- Pat into small handfuls to form 12 mounds on the lined tray; don't bother to shape them until all 12 are laid out and you can see which rolls needs to have dough pinched off, and which need to be bulked up, so that they are more or less of even size. When you've finished, pat each into a rough round roll shape about 7cm in diameter by 2-3cm high.

- Sprinkle the remaining 2 tsps oats over the rolls (a fat pinch each) and pop them in the oven for 15 minutes then transfer, 1 by 1, to a wire rack to cool just a little. Eat warm, or leave to reach room temperature. They can be frozen for up to one month, although may be slightly crumbly after defrosting.