Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cherry Bakewell Cupcakes

I'm trying to refine my cherry bakewell cupcakes and tried making them today based on my cherry bakewell big sponge. So to a 2-egg basic cupcake mix, I added about a tsp of almond extract, 50g ground almonds in 134g of self-raising flour, but no extra baking powder.

When the cakes were cooked and cooled, I took a chunk out of the top of each (with an apple corer - all very easy and neat!) and then added cherry jam to the hole, before replacing the top part of the cake removed to hide the jam. Iced with white water icing and then topped with toasted flaked almonds. Yum!

We made them for the visit of my Mum and other family today, but knowing that 2 visitors don't like almonds, Zachary helped me make a 1-egg batch of vanilla cupcakes which he then iced with lurid green icing - here he is, all proud!

(I should note that I keep typing 'cheery' instead of 'cherry,' - still very appropriate though!)

Friday, September 23, 2011

Moving up

Zachary started a new nursery last week - it's a preschool nursery attached to the Infant School we hope he'll be attending next September. Apparently going to the nursery doesn't affect your chances of getting into the school, but we're in catchment so hopefully as long as I get my application in on time, we should stand a good chance of getting him in.

So the first week back after the holidays wasn't too bad - a few tears a couple of mornings, but nothing drastic and he always came home happy and full of what he had been doing.

This week has been a bit of a mixed bag though and it caught me off guard really. I was expecting problems last week so was prepared then, but I guess Zachary realised this week that this was going to happen on a more permanent basis! Monday he argued with me about going in the car and I had to half drag, half carry him to nursery because he would not walk, and then had to be peeled from me when we got there. Tuesday we got there okay (despite a tantrum at home before we left) but again had to be peeled from my leg. Not good, although he was still coming home happy.

Wednesday I changed the morning routine a bit to fit in some cartoons before we left and that did seem to settle him more. I also gave him plenty of warning that we would be walking, and had a much better drop off. Thursday too so I feel as though we've got a bit more sorted. Zachary does seem to be enjoying himself though - he's brought home some paintings already, and is always very chatty about what he has been playing with. I think he might also be making some friends.

Other than nursery, the week has been generally good but with a few pockets of crapness. Zachary has had some major tantrums this week over seemingly nothing, and has a couple of odd nights, but I'm really hoping that it's all part of the settling in process at nursery and that things will quieten down once he gets more used to the new routine, and feels more confident about what's happening. But I'm really good at trying to assign reasons for his and Leo's behaviours and a lot of the time it's just them being boys and trying to cope with growing up. We'll see how it goes!

Sticky Toffee Pudding with Toffee Sauce

I've been wanting to try a sticky toffee pudding for ages - we had friends over for dinner on Thursday so I thought I'd give it a shot.

I've got a recipe for this in my Great British Baking book so I had a look, but it seemed to involved a bit of faffing around with dates, boiling water and bicarbonate of soda, so I tried James Martin's Desserts book. That also involved the use of dates and bubbling up of stuff...but did also direct the pureeing of the dates which I thought might be nicer in the sponge so went for that recipe.

The sponge went well although the boys managed to have a crying/screaming episode just at the point that I was dealing with boiling water and bicarbonate of soda! Also, I was using a 20cm tin (not 23cm) and after noting a faint smell of burning at 35 minutes cooking (!), I found that it was slightly overdone on top. Not to worry, top removed, sponge tasting good, although it did look rather suspiciously as though I hadn't quite done the final stage of mixing terribly well...

Then on to the sauce. The sauce recipe in the book sounded really easy - at this stage I should have backed away! Butter and sugar (used caster sugar) melted, cream in and brought to the boil. And it boiled and boiled but didn't caramelise! About 15 minutes later it was incredibly thick, barely browner than when it had started and still tasted of cream and sugar. I poured it into a tin and it hardened into a weird chewy yet powdery substance...

With hindsight I think my mistake was to stir the mixture while it was boiling so I'll have to experiment with this next time. Yesterday though, time was short and I had all the ingredients so I just whipped up a batch of Nigella's butterscotch sauce which worked well.

On reflection, it was tasty, but quite a bit of work making the elements separately rather than a self-saucing pudding - must find new recipe to try!

75g soft butter
175g dark brown demerera sugar
200g self-raising flour
1 tbsp golden syrup
2 tbsp black treacle
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
200g pitted dried dates
1 tbsp bicarbonate of soda

For the Toffee Sauce –
100g sugar
100g butter
200ml double cream

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200C (180C fan)/400F/gas 6. Grease a 23cm tin thoroughly with 25g of the butter, then dust the inside of the tin with flour.
2. Using a food mixer, blend the remaining butter and sugar together. Slowly add the golden syrup, black treacle, eggs and vanilla extract to the butter mixture and continue mixing. Turn the mixer down to a slow speed and then add the flour. Once all the ingredients are combined, turn off the mixer.
3. Place the dates in a saucepan with 300ml water and bring to the boil. Puree the water and date mixture and add the bicarbonate of soda. While it is still hot, quickly add this mixture to the egg mix. Once the mix is combined, pour into the prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until the top is just firm to the touch.
4. Remove the pudding from the oven and allow to cool, then turn out of the tin and cut into squares.
5. To make the sauce, melt the butter and sugar together in a small pan, add the cream and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes until the sauce reaches the desired consistency.
6. The sponge and sauce can be made in advance and the sponge can even be frozen. Both can be plated up and reheated in the oven.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Mary Anne's Melting Moments

I have been avidly following the current series of the Great British Bake Off and one of your favourites is Mary Anne. Lovely big home-style baking - the Ploughman's loaf in particular looks fab!

Mary Anne has a blog - Time to Cook - and has been posting up some of her competition recipes including the lovely looking Melting Moments from the biscuits episode.

The recipe is here so I'm not going to copy it out for the blog. I thought the biscuits came out reasonably well, although we had some interesting moments along the way. Essentially it was a two-handed experiment again - I made the biscuits and Leigh made the (quite fabulous) depression-era buttercream.

So for the biscuits, I started off on the wrong foot I think by using butter from the fridge rather than at room temperature! I microwaved it for about 10 seconds to soften and then beat it in the Kitchen Aid with the icing sugar for the full 5 minutes. It felt very soft at the end of the 5 minutes, certainly soft enough to pipe, but then I added the flour and cornflour and the whole thing ended up just far too stiff to pipe. So, note to self, start with butter at room temperature!

Leigh suggested adding some milk to the mix which I did and it did soften enough to pipe reasonably. The next hurdle was that I couldn't see any indication on the blog post as to how big the biscuits should be. So I guessed, drew round an egg cup and then when I found I was barely going to get 15 biscuits out of it rather than the 24 suggested by the recipe, that I must have been going too big! Never mind, into the oven and they looked good coming out, although on eating later we found that some of them had not cooked through completely, and that they perhaps weren't as crisp as they should have been - all probably due to the issues with the mix and that they're bigger than Mary Anne's obviously were.

But, not disasterous. Leigh made the buttercream, which to be honest looked iffy after the cooking stage, but once it had been whipped up for 10 minutes, looked fab and tasted lovely. It was left in the fridge overnight as I wasn't going to put them together til the next day.

We sandwiched with the buttercream and lemon curd (delish!), although had I been patient and waited for the buttercream to soften out of the fridge before trying to spread it on the biscuits, I could probably have got more in - as it was, at least half the mix was left (not that anyone ate any of it with a spoon from the mixing bow.l or anything...).

I have got a photo to put on, although not to hand at the mo. But I was quite pleased with the first attempt - and there's certainly lots to work on for the next batch!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Weey milk

Just before dinner tonight, we put on a DVD of Leigh and I in HMS Pinafore, which we performed with the Ipswich G&S Society pre-children. Zachary and Leo seemed to quite enjoy shouting and pointing at the screen when they saw us and it led to a discussion over dinner about where Zachary was in the DVD.

Having tried to explain the concept that he was not even a baby then, that he didn't yet exist, we then got on to babies growing in mummies' tummies, not daddies' tummies and how it was the same for animals... At this point, Leigh realised that Zachary was using the whole thing as an excuse not to eat his dinner and I told him that he needed to eat up before we continued the conversation. So, at this point Zachary pipes up with something along the lines of 'and then they put a pint of milk under their bottoms and you get weey milk.' Non-sequiter, I thank you.

It was very difficult to leave the conversation at this point so after some careful questioning and some quite colourful descriptions from Zachary (which, please note, failed to include the one key word which might have explained everything), we discovered that he was talking about cows. It further transpired that while Zachary knows that milk comes from a cow's udder, he also thinks that that's their willy - hence weey milk.

We gently put him right, but it was very difficult not to laugh!

Saturday, September 03, 2011

Rice Crispie cake pots filled with chocolate pudding

This is a mash up of 2 separate recipes we found. I noticed a recipe for Rice Crispie cake pots on the back of a cereal box a couple of weeks ago, and Leigh was sent this recipe by a friend as it makes a very tasty ice cream with no eggs (great for pregnant friends!). If you don't freeze it, it makes chocolate pudding. Fab.

I made the pots and Leigh made the pudding. The pots are very straightforward although I was surprised at just how sticky the mixture was to handle. It was almost impossible to get it off my fingers and shape the pots, but I found that spraying my hands with the cooking spray oil worked very well and helped. The pots were quite thick and I'm not sure whether they should be a bit thinner to allow for more filling, but either way they're very tasty!

Cake pots -
45g butter
300g marshmallows
180g rice crispies
(something to fill them with and sprinkles)

- Melt the butter. Add the marshmallows and heat gently until melted.

- Stir in the rice crispies

- Coat the cups of a muffin pan with spray cooking oil then divide the mixture between them (the original recipe said it would make 16. I made 12 and then used the rest to make balls of marshmallowy rice crispies). Cool and then remove from the pan - I used a small spatula to help ease them out.

- Fill with pudding, frozen yogurt or ice cream. Top with sprinkles and/or nuts and serve.

Chocolate pudding -
450ml whole milk (we used UHT)
15g cornflour
50g cocoa
75g golden granulated or caster sugar
pinch of salt

Mix 100ml of the milk with the cornflour to make a smooth paste. Set aside. Mix together the cocoa powder, sugar and salt in a large bowl.

Heat the remaining milk to simmering point, then pour in a steady stream over the cocoa mixture whisking vigourously to prevent lumps from forming. Return the mixture to the hob, cooking over a very low heat at barely simmering point. Stir the bottom constantly to prevent scorching; it can easily catch so take care. Cook for six minutes, then add the blended cornflour, whisking again to prevent lumps. Return to a simmer and cook for 2 minutes until thickened and smooth.

Strain the mixture into a clean container and cool in an ice-water bath, stirring often to prevent a skin from forming. Refrigerate.