Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas Gifts, back of beyond style!

Every year as well making christmas cakes and Puddings as gifts  I try and make something yummy for my work colleagues.  Last year I made Shortbread that was such a hit I had to give out the recipe, which I know has been used by at least one of my colleagues. This year I decided to have a go at Sophie Dahl's peanut butter fudge which  looked really easy to make. I can happily report that it was dead simple to make and is really delicious, although a bit sickly if eaten in large quantities.

Peanut butter fudge
  • 125g/4½oz butter
  • 500g/1lb 2oz dark brown sugar
  • 120ml/4fl oz milk
  • 250g/9oz crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds only
  • 300g/10½oz icing sugar

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat.
  2. Stir in the brown sugar and milk, and bring to the boil for 2-3 minutes, without stirring.
  3. Remove from the heat, and stir in the peanut butter and vanilla seeds.
  4. Place the icing sugar in a large bowl, and pour the hot butter and sugar mixture on top. Using a wooden spoon, beat the mixture until smooth.
  5. Pour into a 20cm/8in square baking tray, and set aside to cool slightly, then place in the fridge to chill completely.
  6. Cut the fudge into squares with a sharp knife, turn out of the tin and store in an airtight container.

I finally finished decorating the three remaining Christmas cakes this afternoon. My decorating is always simple ( mainly because my decorating skills are very amateur) but I think quite effective. They now await packaging either in festive patterned cellophane or in a box made by my very clever husband.

The Gluten free Christmas cake

    Thursday, 15 December 2011

    Feeling festive!

    Here in the back of beyond Christmas seems to be very close and I am feeling slightly unorganised. I'm not really sure where the last three weeks have gone. I know I have been busy with work, and baking, and socialising, but last time I looked I'm sure it was December the 1st!

    Out of the four Christmas cakes I made, this is the only one that is decorated and has been delivered to a  fellow Christmas cake fan as his Christmas present. I am planning to marzipan the others this weekend and then ice them midweek.
    Last weekend we had the village Christmas party and Panto. This is a strictly village affair with everyone bringing a bottle and a plate of food to share. The Panto is the mastermind of  our resident ex actor who writes and directs an enthusiastic bunch of amateur thespians in a traditional Pantomime with lots of in jokes about the village and it's residents. Considering the food is an ad hoc affair the spread is always impressive. My "plate" was slightly more than a plates worth as I produced 24 Christmas themed cupcakes. I found red, white and green sprinkles in Morrison's along with green and red cake cases. Needless to say the cupcakes disappeared very quickly.

    On Monday night my son and I decided to make some gingerbread snowmen. My son has been going to cookery class after school and now fancies himself as something of a chef. He was very keen to complete this recipe all by himself, so with only a small amount of input from me he turned out a pretty impressive batch of gingerbread snow men and other Christmas related biscuits. The recipe came from the BBC good food website and was really easy to make with the use of a food processor.

    Gingerbread snowmen

    350g/12oz plain flour, plus extra for rolling out
    1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    2 tsp ground ginger
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    125g/4½oz butter
    175g/6oz light soft brown sugar
    1 free-range egg
    4 tbsp golden syrup

    To decorate
    writing icing
    cake decorations

    1.Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and cinnamon and pour into the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and blend until the mix looks like breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar.

    2.Lightly beat the egg and golden syrup together, add to the food processor and pulse until the mixture clumps together.
    Tip the dough out, knead briefly until smooth, wrap in clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.
    3.Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. Line two baking trays with greaseproof paper.

    4.Roll the dough out to a 0.5cm/¼in thickness on a lightly floured surface. Using cutters, cut out the gingerbread men shapes and place on the baking tray, leaving a gap between them. For hanging as decorations, use a skewer to make a small hole in the top of each biscuit.

    5.Bake for 12 minutes, or until lightly golden-brown. Leave on the tray for 10 minutes and then move to a wire rack to finish cooling. When cooled decorate with the writing icing and cake decorations.

    Monday, 21 November 2011

    Christmas Pudding Sunday

    I am making my Christmas puddings slightly later than usual this year, mainly because we have been so busy I haven't had a day to devote to steaming Christmas puds. I have been religiously feeding my christmas cakes whilst thinking "must get the puddings done!".Christmas pudding is so easy to make, yes it does have a long list of ingredients and a ridiculously long steaming time but the actual mixture is easy peasy.

    I use Delia Smiths Christmas pudding recipe in her christmas cookery book, which as I mentioned when I made my Christmas cake, is my bible when it comes to christmas cookery. I make a variety of sizes of Christmas puddings mostly for friends and family. I particularly like making individual puddings, which I wrap in muslin squares and tie with christmas ribbon and give as gifts to the Christmas pudding lovers amongst my friends.

    I also love the tradition of getting everyone in the family to have a stir and make a wish. Whilst making the pudding mixture on Saturday we had friends over so my puddings had 9 lucky wish stirs. Lets hope all those wishes come true!

    This year I am making less than usual because my parents are taking all of the family out for Christmas lunch so we don't need a pudding for the big day. It is quite a revelation only making one quantity of mixture and only one steaming . Usually I find myself steaming puddings from the minute I get up to the moment I go to bed on Christmas pudding day!

    Below is Delia's recipe. The only tweaks I make are that I have never been able to get barley wine, so I always use extra stout instead and I don't like nuts in my pudding, so I omit the nuts and add extra dried fruit. If you want to make individual puddings this recipe makes 8 small ones using 8cm pudding basins.
    My other tip is that you can steam christmas puds in a slow cooker, just fill the slow cooker with boiling water until the pudding is three quaters submerged. It takes 5hrs on high to slow cook the small individual puddings and 10 hours to steam a 2pt pudding.

    Traditional Christmas Pudding
    This recipe makes one large pudding in a 2 pint (1.2 litre) basin. If you have any left over it will re-heat beautifully, wrapped in foil, in the oven next day. If you want two smaller puddings, use two 1 pint (570 ml) basins, but give them the same steaming time. If you can't get barley wine (pubs usually have it), use extra stout instead.

     4 oz (110 g) shredded suet
     2 oz (50 g) self-raising flour, sifted
     4 oz (110 g) white breadcrumbs
     1 level teaspoon ground mixed spice
     ¼ level teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
     good pinch ground cinnamon
     8 oz (225 g) soft dark brown sugar
     4 oz (110 g) sultanas
     4 oz (110 g) raisins
     10 oz (275 g) currants
     1 oz (25 g) mixed candied peel, finely chopped (buy whole peel if possible, then chop it yourself)
     1 oz (25 g) almonds, skinned and chopped
     1 small cooking apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
     grated zest ½ large orange
     grated zest ½ large lemon
     2 tablespoons rum
     2½ fl oz (75 ml) barley wine
     2½ fl oz (75 ml) stout

    Begin the day before you want to steam the pudding. Take your largest, roomiest mixing bowl and start by putting in the suet, sifted flour and breadcrumbs, spices and sugar. Mix these ingredients very thoroughly together, then gradually mix in all the dried fruit, mixed peel and nuts followed by the apple and the grated orange and lemon zests. Don't forget to tick everything off so as not to leave anything out.
    Now in a smaller basin measure out the rum, barley wine and stout, then add the eggs and beat these thoroughly together. Next pour this over all the other ingredients, and begin to mix very thoroughly. It's now traditional to gather all the family round, especially the children, and invite everyone to have a really good stir and make a wish! The mixture should have a fairly sloppy consistency – that is, it should fall instantly from the spoon when this is tapped on the side of the bowl. If you think it needs a bit more liquid add a spot more stout. Cover the bowl and leave overnight.

    Next day pack the mixture into the lightly greased basin, cover it with a double sheet of silicone paper (baking parchment) and a sheet of foil and tie it securely around the lip with string (you really need to borrow someone's finger for this!). It's also a good idea to tie a piece of string across the top to make a handle. Place the pudding in a steamer set over a saucepan of simmering water and steam the pudding for 8 hours. Do make sure you keep a regular eye on the water underneath and top it up with boiling water from the kettle from time to time.

    When the pudding is steamed let it get quite cold, then remove the steam papers and foil and replace them with some fresh ones, again making a string handle for easier manoeuvring. Now your Christmas pudding is all ready for Christmas Day. Keep it in a cool place away from the light.

    As a Christmas pudding fan, I usually can't wait until christmas for my first taste of the pudding. I can confidently say that even without the maturing period these puddings taste divine!

    Friday, 18 November 2011

    Baking for Pudsey Bear

    This week the call went out from my son's school for cakes for the Children in need cake sale being held this afternoon. As I was working all week I didn't really have time to create anything amazing or time consuming, so the old faithful cupcake recipe came out. This is the Victoria sponge recipe that lives in my head having been taught to me by my mum and various school home Ec teachers. See I did learn something at school! I did have to do a bit of substitution as I had run out of caster sugar, so used normal granulated sugar instead.

     The making of these was not all plain sailing as I had agreed to let my son help and we ended up with half an egg shell added to the mixture. Unfortunately for me, I was using the Kenwood chef so the beater was going round when the egg shell was added. Some 20 minutes later all the shell was removed. (I hope) All a little bit more time consuming than I had hoped!

    Classic Victoria sponge cupcakes
    makes 12
    4oz Butter
    4oz caster sugar
    2 eggs
    4oz self raising flour

    Pre heat the oven to 180c

     line a bun tin with cupcake cases

    Cream together the butter and the sugar until light and fluffy. this should take at least 5 minutes with an electric whisk.

    Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each egg is added. I usually add a tablespoon of the flour with the last egg, it stops the mixture curdling.

    Sieve the flour into the mixture and fold in until fully combined.

    Divide between the 12 cake cases and bake in the oven for 15minutes or until well risen and springy to touch. Remove immediately from the tin and cool on a cooling rack.

    I decorated mine with a simple Glace icing which is  approximately 5oz icing sugar mixed with a tablespoon of water. Mix this until a thick icing is formed, the consistency  should coat the back of a spoon. Pour over your cupcakes and finish with whatever decorations take you fancy. Mine are spotty to go with the Children in need spotty theme!

    Sunday, 13 November 2011

    One for Mary Berry

    We were recently invited to Sunday lunch at the home of one of my son's friends. I had heard that the lady of the house makes a mean roast, so felt I needed to make a deluxe pudding to follow the scrumptious lunch.
    I trawled through my cookery books until I came across a recipe that I hadn't made in years, Chocolate roulade. It just jumped out at me because in the last series of  'The Great British Bake-Off', Mary Berry chose it as one of the technical challenges. I remember thinking, whilst watching the bakers battling to get a good "roll" on their roulades, that I had made it many years ago, during my dinner party phase in the 90's and never thought of it as that difficult to make. Perhaps my memory was playing tricks on me! Time to dust down the recipe and give it another whirl.
    This recipe has the added challenge of making a chocolate ganache for the filling. Chocolate and cream boiled together does slightly unnerve me as both ingredients can be a little temperamental if not handled correctly. Thankfully the cream and chocolate behaved beautifully and I ended up with a fab looking and tasting dessert that got polished off by us all after the amazing pork roast served by our hosts.

    Chocolate Roulade
    groundnut oil for greasing
    150g caster sugar
    6 eggs (separated)
    200g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
    50ml milk
    icing sugar for dusting

    100g plain chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
    300ml double cream

    Preheat the oven to 200c. Oil and line a swiss roll tin measuring 23x30cm. Brush the paper with oil.
    Gently melt the chocolate and milk in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, (do not let the bowl touch the water in the pan) and once the chocolate has melted stir until a smooth consistency is achieved.

    Whisk the sugar and egg yolks until pale and fluffy.

    Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg yolk mixture.

    Whisk the egg whites until stiff peaks are formed.

    Using a metal spoon, stir a little of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to slacken the mix. Fold in the remaining egg white.

    Spoon the mixture into the tin, move the tin around until the mixture reaches all corners of the tin. Bake for 12 minutes.

    Remove from the oven, leave in the tin until cold with a damp tea towel over the cake.

    For the filling, melt the chocolate and cream together over a very low heat stirring gently until the chocolate is melted. Bring the mixture to the boil and then remove from the heat.

    Stir the mixture occasionally until the mixture starts to thicken then whisk with an electric whisk until a thick mousse consistency is achieved. If the mixture does not thicken, place in the fridge for 5 minutes and then whisk again.

    When the cake is cold turn it out onto a sheet of grease proof paper sprinkled with the icing sugar. Carefully remove the backing paper and spread the ganache over the cake.

    To roll up the cake, make a small incision along the edge you are going to roll from to help form a roll and use the grease proof paper encourage the cake to roll up. This cake will crack as it is rolled. This is part of the charm of it. Dust with more icing sugar if required.

    Monday, 7 November 2011

    Bonfire Baking

    The bonfire!
     Yesterday was the village farm bonfire party. For the children of the village it is a chance to get up close and personal with a big bonfire whilst eating all manner of yummy foods and watching some pretty impressive fireworks (thanks to the generosity of the farmer!).  For us grownups it is a chance to relive our childhoods with the smell of woodsmoke, the whizz bang of the fireworks and the taste of bonfire classics; hotdogs, gingerbread and  home made toffee. The food is a pretty adhoc affair with eveyone pitching in with a flask of homemade soup, a basket of baked potatoes or some baked goodies.

    I decided to make a couple of different things. The first, gingerbread, I made a few days ago to give it chance to get really sticky. This recipe I found on the good food channel website and was so easy to make and became really moist and sticky after a few days wrapped in foil in a sealed container. It really is the ideal cold weather cake. The ginger is so warm and aromatic. Just perfect for bonfire night.

    Sticky Gingerbread
    280g plain flour
    1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    1 tbsp ground ginger
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    a pinch of salt
    170g unsalted butter, softened
    90g lightlight muscovado sugar
    220g golden syrup
    1 egg
    200ml milk
    4 pieces preserved stem ginger, chopped

    Set the oven to 180°/gas 4. Line the base of a 20cm square cake tin with non-stick baking parchment, and butter the sides.

    Sift the flour with the bicarbonate of soda, ginger, cinnamon and salt.

    Cream the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Now beat in the golden syrup, then a heaped tablespoonful of the flour mixture followed by the egg.

    Beat in the remaining flour, followed by the milk, until the mixture forms a smooth batter. Stir in the stem ginger.

     Scrape into the prepared tin. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until firm to the touch. Test by inserting a skewer deep into the centre. If it comes out clean then it is done. Let the gingerbread cool in the tin for 5-10 minutes, and then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool.

    Once cold wrap in greaseproof paper and foil and store in an airtight tin for a couple of days before serving.

    The second recipe I Googled and tried was for cinder toffee. My mum always used to make this for bonfire night and I have such happy memories of munching on this honeycomb toffee whilst watching fireworks lighting up the sky. The recipe I found was again on the Goodfood channel website. It looked similar to that I remember my mum making so attempted it with confidence. Unfortunately my confidence was short lived because when I got to adding bicarbonate of soda to the toffee mix my toffee did not bubble up very much at all and the toffee would not set.

    This experience reminded me that you cannot always trust what you see on the internet! I have spoken to my mum since and she has promised me her recipe for cinder toffee next time I head back home. I would like to say at this point that every recipe on this blog has been tried and tested by me, an amateur baker with no formal qualifications, so you can trust that these recipes will work for you.

    Thankfully the lovely lady who provides our eggs had made some fabulous toffee. So mine was not missed. I  am planning to get the recipe for the Lavender Cottage toffee and will have a go, with what I am told is a failsafe recipe.

    Because my toffee didn't work out I decided to make some toffee apple cup cakes instead. This was another internet find from another blog  This recipe worked a treat and I was very pleased with the results. A definite keeper for me. If eaten warm (before icing!) the toffee is still runny and if left to cool the toffee becomes chewy but still very soft.

    Toffee Apple Cupcakes
    Makes 12

    55g  unsalted butter, softened
    125g  soft light brown sugar
    1 large egg, beaten
    210g plain flour
    1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    3/4 tsp cinnamon
    pinch salt
    200g apple sauce, from a jar
    1 heaped tablespoon creme fraiche
    12 toffees

    Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Line a bun tin with cake cases.

    Cream the butter and sugar together for about 3 minutes until smooth. Add the egg, beating until well combined. Sift in the flour, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, cloves and salt.  Add the apple sauce and creme fraiche and mix until totally combined.

    Spoon half the mixture into the paper cases, Place a toffee in the centre of each and then spoon the remaining mixture on top. Bake for about 20 minutes, until well risen and firm to the touch.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

    Caramel Buttercream
    1 stick butter, softened
    4 cups icing sugar
    3 tbsp caramel syrup
    2 tbsp milk

    In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine butter, half the icing sugar, milk, and caramel syrup. Beat on medium speed until smooth and creamy, 3 to 5 minutes. Gradually add remaining sugar, 1 cup at a time, beating for about 2 minutes after each addition, until icing reaches desired consistency; you may not need to add all the sugar. Spread or pipe the buttercream onto your cakes as required.

    Monday, 31 October 2011

    Happy Halloween Biscuits

    The Scream
    Happy Halloween! Here in the back of beyond we have an annual pumpkin carving competition on Halloween. So instead of trick or treating the children and some adults carve a pumpkin and leave it lit outside their houses and each year a different secret judge goes around judging the pumpkins and awards prizes. It is lovely to walk round  the village after dark seeing all the wonderful pumpkins.

    For the last two years my husband has won the prize in the "I'm not telling you my age" category and felt under pressure to live up to his previous form. This year he created two amazing pumpkins but was pipped at the post by our next door neighbour with an impressive haunted house scene carved into a pumpkin. We did still manage to have a winning pumpkin in the household as my son came joint first with his 'brainless bully' pumpkin.

    My creativity is kept firmly in the kitchen. I created a batch of Halloween biscuits for all the children visiting the pumpkins. My son enjoyed decorating the biscuits and eating them with all his friends.

    Basic Butter Biscuits                   
  1. 250g butter , softened
  2. 140g caster sugar
  3. 1 egg yolk
  4. 2 tsp Vanilla extract
  5. 300g plain flour

  6. Pre heat the oven to 180c

    Mix the butter and sugar in a large bowl with a wooden spoon, then add the egg yolk and vanilla and briefly beat to combine. Sift over the flour and stir until the mixture is well combined - you might need to get your hands in at the end to give everything a really good mix and press the dough together.

    Roll out your dough on a floured board and cut into shapes of your choice. Place on a greased baking tray and bake for 8-10 minutes until biscuits are light golden in colour. Decorate however you fancy!
    The brainless bully!

    Saturday, 29 October 2011

    Gluten free isn't always easy!

    This weekend saw another trip to the city, this time so my son could go to his first Championship football match, courtesy of a football supporting friend of ours. My darling girlfriend Gem had offered us a bed for the night so I figured the least I could do was whip up a gluten free treat to take along.

    I remembered that Gem had mentioned having a go at Viennese whirls. We had had a lovely reminiscing session discussing our respective childhood trips to the bakers for Viennese whirls with butter cream filling and chocolate coverings.

    As the normal recipe tasted a bit like the shortbread I make (and that transfers to a gluten free recipe with no fuss), the only change is gluten free flour for  plain flour, I thought this would be similar. Big mistake! Biscuits need gluten to make them less crumbly and more manageable. The mixture looked and felt the same as the normal Viennese mixture so I initially piped it in the same way as I had piped my normal mixture. Thankfully I had only put half  the biscuits into the oven due to baking tray and oven space limitations because when they came out of the oven and I attempted to handle them they crumbled like dry sandcastles.  I was pretty stressed out by the time I had tried and failed to transfer the biscuits to the cooling racks and a few choice words were uttered!!

    The second batch I piped significantly thicker and piped some into cupcake cases to help hold them together through the cooking and cooling. These were more manageable and allowed me to move them and sandwich them together with the butter cream. But they were still significantly more fragile than the normal variety.

     The transportation of the biscuits 140miles to Gem's place was pretty fraught and I finally started breathing again once the biscuits were handed over and had survived the journey in one piece.

    I have listed Xantham gum into the recipe and that will make them easier to manage.

    Viennese Whirls
    250g Unsalted butter
    55g Icing sugar
    225g Doves plain flour blend
    2 tsp Xantham gum
    75g corn flour

    Butter cream
    75g unsalted butter
    150g Icing sugar
    1tsp Vanilla extract

    25g plain or milk chocolate

    Cooking Time: 15 minutes.

    Place all the ingredients into a food processor with the metal blade . If you don't have a food processor then a mixing bowl with an electric mixer.

    Mix the ingredients to a paste and then stop. You don’t want to add too much air.

    For the classic look of the biscuit place the paste into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe the mixture out onto non-stick baking parchment .

    Pipe the biscuits on the tray they will be baked on and make sure they are spaced sufficiently apart because they do expand.

    Bake the biscuits at 170°c for 15 minutes until lightly golden brown, then place them onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature.

    Beat together buttercream ingredients until a soft light buttercream is achieved. Pipe the buttercream onto one of the biscuits and sandwich another biscuit on top.

    Melt the chocolate and drizzle across the biscuits. Leave to set.

    Wednesday, 26 October 2011

    Scratch and sniff Christmas cakes

    Let me start today by declaring that I LOVE CHRISTMAS. I am not ashamed to admit this fact. Everything about Christmas gets me excited. The decorations, the presents, the whole father Christmas thing, getting the family together. I love it all. I also love fruit cake and anything made with dried fruit, really, so Christmas baking is my absolute favourite thing.

    Today is Christmas cake baking day. I always make my cakes in the last week of October. Why? Because Delia Smith says so. I am a huge fan of Delia Smith's Christmas cookery book and have had my copy for 15 years and use it every year for her Christmas cake recipe and her Christmas pudding recipe. I cannot imagine Christmas without Delia. She is a hero of mine along with Nigel Slater and Jamie Oliver. This, I suppose, brings me to my second declaration. I am a messy cook! Anyone who has had to clear up behind me will know that my mantra in the kitchen is why use one dish when you can use 10!  I must add a little aside here; If it wasn't for my dishwasher and my fabulous husband I probably wouldn't bake quite as much for although I am a messy cook, I hate clearing up afterwards! My husband and I have an agreement. I cook, he cleans up after me. My friend calls him Dobby the house Elf . I prefer "my kitchen Richard, every house should have one!" Anyway moving on, because I am a messy cook and my favourite cookbooks are used with extreme regularity, some of my cookery books have taken on a 'scratch and sniff' quality. Delia's Christmas book being one of them. When I pick up the book it naturally falls open at the Christmas cake page and as I look at the page there are bits of dried cake mix and grease stains adorning the recipe, memories of Christmas's past come flooding back to me. Happy years and sad years but every year for the last 15 have included this cake making ritual.

    I generally make 3 or 4 Christmas cakes each year. One for our house,  the rest are gifts for my sister and her family,  for my friend who is a Christmas cake fan and  for Gem my gluten free friend. Once fed, marzipaned and iced, my husband makes festive presentation boxes for the cakes. The picture today is of the fresh out of the oven cakes. It will be a while before I can photograph the finished boxed cakes.

    Rather than copy Delia's recipe out. below is the link to her recipe on the Delia online website. I make my cakes exactly as she says, my only tweak is I omit the almonds and replace with more dried fruit.  I am not a fan of nuts in fruit cake. For Gem's gluten free version I use 2 tsp of Xantham gum and Doves gluten free self raising flour blend. I also have my own way of feeding the cakes. I feed them weekly with brandy via a syringe and needle. Usually 5ml a week injected into the cake in different spots each week. This method means the brandy gets to all parts of the cake and makes a really well brandied and moist cake.

    Baking bonanza in the back of beyond!

    Last weekend my dear friend Gem and her family came to stay in the back of beyond. They are city folk and so really enjoyed the change of scenery. We were lucky with the weather and had a lovely weekend going for long walks in the beautiful Autumnal countryside.

    Before their arrival I took the afternoon off work to bake for our guests. As you may remember, Gem is coeliac and has a lactose intolerance, so I have to get creative to produce tasty gluten and lacto free fare for her. To be fair I enjoy the challenge and this time I decided to raise my gluten free game and make the gluten free cooks nemesis - pastry. Pastry needs gluten to make it malleable and to give it a nice crisp texture when it is cooked, so without gluten it can be crumbly and tough.

    I decided to follow the recipe on the back of the Doves Farm gluten free flour mix. My theory being it must work if the producers of the flour mix say it does!! Before I started I did a little Google search looking for the best gluten free pastry recipes. Initially I found lots of gluten free quiche recipes, which were gluten free because they omitted the pastry altogether! This confirmed my thought that only the brave of heart actually home make gluten free pastry. Eventually, after much trawling, I unearthed  some good tips for making gluten free pastry which I incorporated into the Doves recipe.  I also used my trusty Kenwood food processor because all pastry comes out better the less it is handled. Amazingly it was easy to make and came out well for a first attempt. I decided to use the pastry for individual quiches and chocolate pecan pies. I figured I needed to get the most out of this first attempt at gluten free pastry.

    Working the pastry into deeply fluted individual tartlet tins was very fiddly and the end result was a little messy because I was nervous about how much the pastry might shrink (and I had left the pastry thicker than I would have done for normal pastry because of it fragility). After baking it blind I was nervous about trimming the cases too much in case of cracking. With hindsight I had little to fear. The pastry turned out to be crisp but not too heavy or tough. It had a slight biscuity quality and lent itself better to the sweet filling than the savory. Gem suggested a little salt might be added to counteract this when using this pastry for a savory filling.

    Once I had made the quiches in normal and gluten free varieties, I mentioned to my husband that I would be making chocolate pecan pies as well. He then informed me that he doesn't like pecans! So in the spirit of catering for all I ended up making him a pecan-less chocolate pecan pie. This is the pie in the picture because all the other pies got eaten before I got chance to photograph them.

    Gluten free pastry

    200g Plain white flour blend (Doves or other gluten free flour )
    75g butter straight from the fridge.
    25g Trex vegetable fat (you can use lard, but I prefer Trex)
    1 egg yolk
    3 tbsp cold water

    Place the flour, butter and Trex in the food processor. Process until a bread crumb mix is achieved (usually within 30 seconds of turning food processor on).
    Add the egg yolk and water and process until a ball of pastry is formed.
    Turn out the pastry and quicky form into a ball. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30minutes.
    Once chilled, place the pastry between two large sheets of cling film and roll out to desired size and shape. (Rolling it out between sheets of cling film means no extra flour is introduced into the pastry which can make the mixture dry and tough)
    Use this pastry as directed in your recipe.

    Chocolate Pecan Pies

    Makes 6 individual tarts in 10cm flan tins with removable bases or 1 large tart using a 20cm flan tin with removable base.
    Preheat the oven to 180c gas mark 4

    For the filling
    200g golden syrup
    3tbsp soft light brown sugar
    150g plain chocolate broken into squares
    50g butter
    3 eggs beaten
    1tsp vanilla extract
    175g pecan nuts

    For the pastry
    200g Plain flour
    25g caster sugar
    50g butter chilled
    50g Trex
    enough cold water to make the pastry come together, usually around 3 tbsps.

    First make the pastry. Put the flour, caster sugar, butter and trex into the food processor, process until bread crumb texture is achieved.
    Add in the water and process until a ball of pastry is formed. Turn out and wrap in cling film and chill for 30 mins.
    After chilling roll out the pastry on a floured board to the size of your tin (or tins).  Grease your tin(s) with a little melted butter then line with your pastry. Sprinkle the pecans into the bottom of the pastry case. Place tin onto a baking sheet and leave to one side whilst you make the filling.

    In a small saucepan mix together the golden syrup, the brown sugar, chocolate and butter. Heat this mixture gently until it is melted and smooth. Remove from the heat and beat in the eggs and vanilla. Pour the mixture into the pastry case.

    Bake in the oven for 50 minutes or until completely set. If making small individual tarts bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool before serving. The tart may sink a little in the middle but this is normal.

    Tuesday, 18 October 2011

    A celebration of Apples

    Here in the back of beyond  apples are big business. Apples are grown just about everywhere you look, from huge orchards for cider production to the tree in the back garden. A few years ago one of the big cider producers produced it's cider in the local town, so from early September through to late october the town air would smell of gently fermenting apples, a really lovely sweet appley smell which I looked forward to every Autumn. Unfortunately they have moved production to another local town which is further afield and not somewhere I go often. I miss that smell, even though it made me feel perpetually hungry!

    Last weekend the local village had a 'celebrating apples' event which invited all those living locally to come and enjoy all sorts of apple related products and activities. There was an apple pressing stall where one could take their own apples and get them pressed. The resulting juice was so fresh and delicious, all shop bought apple juices were placed firmly in the shade. There were games to join in with: apple bobbing, apple and spoon races, archery and a wet sponge throwing competition with the local plumber given the task of standing in the stocks and getting a thorough soaking! The event also had a few competitions for junior bakers, artists and writers. My son earned himself a highly commended for his apple inspired collage and a first in the baking competition. He had to produce flapjacks to a particular recipe which I have to say I was dubious about, mainly because it contained ground almonds which I am not a big fan of ,so below is my version of the apple flapjacks.  This recipe makes a large 23cm square tin of flapjacks but can be halved for a smaller tin. These are a gooey rather than crunchy flapjack (which is my favourite kind) and has taken a lot of trial and error to get right!!   The picture on this blog  is of my son's prize winning entry!

    Apple Flapjacks

    Pre heat the oven to 180c

    12oz butter
    6oz  golden caster sugar
    10oz golden syrup
    2oz black treacle
    1lb 2oz porridge oats
    3 eating apples, peeled, cored and finely chopped.

    Place butter, sugar, syrup and treacle in heavy bottomed pan, bring slowly to boil until sugar has dissolved.

    Stir in the finely chopped apple and stir for a further 1 minute.

    Remove from heat and carefully stir in the oats.

    Pour into a shallow, oven proof, greased or lined tray* and bake in oven  for 15-20 mins.

     Allow to cool slightly before portioning. Leave to become cold in the tin.

    * I have been converted to the silicon baking tins for this recipe. The mixture doesn't stick and the tin does not need greasing or linning. Brilliant invention!

    Thursday, 6 October 2011

    New mum's need cake

    As you might have noticed, there is a definite theme running through my blog: Any occasion can be manipulated to involve cake!
    Last weekend we went to visit a close friend and the latest addition to her family, a gorgeous baby boy named Elliott. Like most new mum's she is exhausted by the demands of the new baby (and his big sister Jess), so our visit required some seriously sinful cake. It  just had to be chocolate fudge cake with some thick double cream.
    This recipe came off the back of a tin of ready made Carnation caramel. It is so easy to make and uber scrummy. I like to pop a slice of it in the microwave for 20 seconds which makes the fudgy topping run and the cake warm. This, with a dollop of double cream, is heaven on a plate!

    Easy peasy Chocolate Fudge cake

    175g (6oz) self-raising flour
    2½ tbsp cocoa powder
    1tsp bicarbonate of soda
    150g (5oz) caster sugar
    2 eggs
    150ml (¼pt) corn oil
    150ml (¼pt) milk
    2tsp vanilla extract
    125g (5oz) dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
    397g can Carnation caramel
    1tbsp icing sugar

    Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F / gas mark 4.

    Line the bases of 2 x18cm (7”) sandwich tins with baking parchment.

    Sift the flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda into a bowl and stir in the sugar.

    In a jug measure the oil and milk, then add the eggs, one teaspoon of vanilla and mix together with a fork until combined. Beat two tablespoons of the caramel until smooth and whisk into the egg and oil mixture.

    Combine the wet with the dry ingredients and mix well.

    The cake mix will be quite wet. Pour the mixture into the tins and bake in the centre of the oven for 20-25 minutes until springy to the touch.

    Cool the cakes in their tins and then turn out onto a wire rack. Remove the baking paper and cool completely.

    Melt the chocolate in short bursts in the microwave, stirring until smooth. Add the remaining caramel and vanilla to the chocolate and beat well until smooth and glossy.

    Sift in the icing sugar and combine thoroughly.

    Place one half of the cake onto a plate, spread with a generous amount of the frosting and top with the other sandwich half. Spread the remaining frosting over the top of the cake and down the sides to cover completely. Leave to set.

    Thursday, 22 September 2011

    Cake for my gorgeous gluten free Gemmy

    This weekend we went back to the city, shaking off the dust and mud of the countryside and donning our finery for a family wedding. I do love an excuse to dress up in a pretty dress and heels and know that I won't be needing to avoid sheep dung and mud!!

     My eldest nephew David finally made an honest woman of his very lovely bride Kirstie. They make a lovely couple and had a touching ceremony which included lighting candles for members of the immediate family who are no longer with us. The wedding breakfast was great fun . I thoroughly enjoyed catching up with members of my extended family and cuddling my newest baby niece.

    Any trip  back home invariably ends up with me phoning my gorgeous girl friend Gemmy and asking for a bed for the night for me and my little family. Gemmy is a fabulous hostess (they cook the best sunday lunch around) but then I would say that as I probably need a bed sometime soon! To thank Gemmy and her husband for their fabulous hospitality I decided to make them some of my carrot cake muffins. The choice of recipe was partly due to the number of carrots from our garden that needed using up and Gemmy loves my carrot cake!  This recipe is actually for a carrot cake but it makes a big cake which can sometimes be a bit OTT, particularly if you like to watch your weight!  So I came up with the idea of making individual cakes using half the recipe.  This  recipe has been named as the best carrot cake in the world ever after I used it in the school cookery book that I collated for my son's school PTA fundraiser!

    The recipe below is gluten free and for a full sized cake but it is easily transformed back into a regular recipe by swapping the gluten free flour for ordinary plain flour and excluding the Xantham gum. For 8 muffins just half the recipe and bake for around 18minutes.

    The best Carrot cake in the world ever!

    Pre heat the oven to 180c. Grease and  line two 20cm cake tins. I use my cake tin liners from Lakeland.

    250ml corn oil
    175g caster sugar
    3 eggs
    175g  gluten free plain flour (I use Doves gluten free flour mix)
    2tsp Xantham gum (Doves Farm make this, you can get it in Tesco and Sainsburys)
    1.5 tsp gluten free baking powder (check the label on your baking powder)
    1.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
    3/5tsp salt
    1.5tsp ground cinnamon
    a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
    1/4 tsp ground ginger
    115g chopped walnuts
    225g carrots finely grated
    5tsp  vanilla extract
    2 tbsp soured cream

    For the frosting
    175g  full fat cream cheese chilled
    25g unsalted butter at room temperature
    225g icing sugar sifted

    Place the corn oil and sugar in a bowl and beat well with an electric mixer until thickened.

    Add the eggs one at a time and beat well after each addition. The mixture should now be pale and fluffy.

    Sift the flour, Xantham gum, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt into the egg mixture and beat well.

    Fold in the carrots, walnuts, vanilla extract, and soured cream.

    Divide the mixture between the tins and bake in the oven for 1hr 5minutes or until a  skewer inserted into the centre of the tin comes out clean.

    Once cooked, turn cakes out of the tins onto a wire rack to cool.

    For the frosting place all the ingredients in a bowl and whip until light and fluffy.

    Sandwich the two cakes together with a little of the frosting then cover the whole cake with the remains of the frosting. Swirl the frosting as you go to give the classic carrot cake look.

    Wednesday, 7 September 2011

    Cake for the workers

    My husband arrived home from work a couple of days ago with a request; Can you make some cake for the sales team meeting? Apparently they have a bit of a passion for my Mars bar crispie cake or Christine's cake as I like to think of it.
    Christine was a very dear freind of mine who gave me this recipe many years ago when we were both working as nannies together. The children all loved this recipe and as it was so easy to make they could get involved and help make the cake.
    Christine was an amazing woman who lost a long battle against cancer 18 months ago. She was an inspiration to everyone who met her and fought every day to stay with her two daughters for as long as she could.
    In the last year of her life she set up a charitable foundation raising money for Macmillian nurses and local cancer charities - . The  foundation team have continued fundraising and hold events throughout the year to raise much needed funds for charities that did so much for Christine and her family and many other families throughout the UK.

    So here in print is my tribute to Christine Wilde a missed and very dear friend.

    Chirstine's Mars bar crispie cake.
    3 mars bars
    2 tbsp golden syrup
    80g butter
    120g rice crispies
    200g milk chocolate ( I use galaxy or dairy milk. This is not a recipe for cooking chocolate)
    You will  need a 20cm square tin, lined with foil, or a silicone baking tin

    Chop the mars bars up into small pieces. Melt them together with the golden syrup and the butter in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Leave until completely melted then stir until a smooth consistency is achieved.
    Place the rice crispies in a large mixing bowl,  pour the mars bar mixture into the rice crispies. Stir until well mixed.

    Transfer the mixture to the tin. Even the mixture out and then place in the fridge until set.

    Melt the chocolate in bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Be warned 'eating' chocolate is a little bit more temperamental than 'cooking' chocolate so be careful!  Once melted, pour the melted chocolate over the rice crispie mixture. Chill again until set.

    Once set cut into squares with a sharp knife.


    Tuesday, 30 August 2011

    End of Summer holidays = Cake for fortification!

    As I have now waved goodbye to my gorgeous great nephew and his mummy (and a fair amount of blueberries!) my mind has turned to the 'back to school' organisation that is needed as soon as humanly possible. The list of jobs to get done seems to grow by the minute and my resolve to get on and do it seems to wane equally quickly!

    My son is making the most of the last days of the summer holiday. Currently he is dividing his time between helping the farmer move sheep, riding his bike around the makeshift bmx track he and his friends have built in the field, and playing football. Therefore he is out of my hair whilst I tackle the mountain of jobs. He just comes in ravenously hungry requesting cake or biscuits on a regular basis.

    So before I knuckle down and start working through my list I figure I should make some cake as fortification for the tasks ahead and to keep the youngest member of the family quiet!

    Chocolate sponge with chocolate butter cream filling.
    This chocolate cake is a variation on my fall back sponge recipe. It is a butter cake recipe which never ever fails and is really easy to make.
    Please note:  The measurements are imperial as its a very old recipe and converting it to metric gives some very strange quantities!

    Pre heat the oven to 180c
    You will need 2 x 18cm round  deep cake tins, lined, base and sides (I cheat and buy cake tin liners from Lakeland).

    6 oz butter (softened)
    1.5tsp vanilla extract
    8 oz caster sugar
    3 eggs
    3 oz plain chocolate (melted)
    8.5 oz plain flour (sifted)
    3 tablespoons cocoa powder
    2tsp baking powder
    6 fl oz milk

    For the butter cream:
    3 oz unsalted butter
    6 oz icing sugar
    2 tsp cocoa mixed with a small amount of water to make a paste
    1-2 tbsp of milk

    Place butter and vanilla in a bowl and beat in the electric mixer until light and fluffy. Gradually add the sugar, beating well until creamy.

    Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition and then add a tbsp of the flour if the mixture looks like it will curdle.

    Beat in the melted chocolate.

    Sift together flour, baking powder and cocoa powder. Alternately fold the flour mixture and the milk into the butter mixture.

    Spoon the mixture into prepared tins and bake for 30 minutes until well risen and a cake testing skewer comes out clean.

    Once cooked remove from the oven and leave to stand for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack to cool.

    To make the butter cream.
    Beat together the butter, cocoa powder paste and  icing sugar until smooth, then add milk until a correct  spreading consistency is reached (sometimes the mixture seems to need 1 tbsp other times 2tbsps )

    Spread the butter cream on one of the sponges and sandwich together. Sift icing sugar over the top for a pretty effect.

    And now have a slice with a cup of tea before tackling those name tags and PE kit assembling!


    Wednesday, 24 August 2011

    Egg supply confirmed....Time to get baking!

    For sometime I have been sporadically getting my eggs from Lavender Cottage, which is just round the corner from our house . I pop up there regularly hoping to see the blue cool box and honesty box on their garden wall . Some days it's there, sometimes it's not . If the box is not there my heart sinks because if I am honest I am a little bit addicted to the lovely blue, white and brown eggs fresh from the Lavender Cottage hens . Their eggs are so fresh and totally free range and make my cakes so rich .
    Today I decided to take matters into my own hands and spoke to the lovely people who own the hens and have now made an agreement to get a regular delivery of eggs on a weekly basis . Hooray !

    So I better get baking to use some of these eggs !

    My Son loves breakfast breads and muffins. One of his favourites is banana muffins. He requested these muffins today and as it is the school holidays i decided to add an extra surprise to the banana muffins. Chunks of 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate . These muffins freeze well .

    Chocolate Chunk Banana Muffins

    250g plain flour
    3tsp baking powder
    1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
    A pinch of salt
    1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
    1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
    115g caster sugar
    75g melted butter
    1 tsp vanilla extract
    1 tsp honey
    2 large ripe bananas
    2 medium eggs (free range)
    125ml Milk
    100g 70% cocoa solids plain chocolate

    Preheat oven to 190c .

    Mash the bananas well .

    Sift the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg into a bowl .

    Add the sugar and mix well . Stir in chocolate chunks .

    In a second bowl, beat together the eggs, vanilla extract, honey, butter and milk .

    Add the bananas to the egg mixture and stir.

    Make a 'well' in the dry mixture and add the egg mixture . Stir with a metal spoon until the flour mixture is just incorporated (don't stir too much - its meant to be thick and lumpy!)
    place mixture into muffin pan lined with paper cases .

    Put in the oven for 20-25 minutes.
    Once golden brown and firm remove from oven and place on cooking rack .

    Enjoy Fresh . If you have any left over just pop them in the microwave for 10 seconds each to refresh them .

    Viennese Whirls and fingers

    I tried many years ago to make viennese whirls and just made an absolute mess and never tried again until today!
    I have to say, with the aid of my food processor and a piping bag, these biscuits were so easy to make and so yummy!

    250g unsalted butter
    55g icing sugar
    225g plain flour
    75g corn flour
    25g plain chocolate

    Cooking Time: 15 minutes.

    Place all the ingredients into a food processor with the metal blade . If you don't have a food processor then a mixing bowl with an electric mixer.

    Mix the ingredients to a paste and then stop. You don’t want to add too much air.

    For the classic look of the biscuit place the paste into a piping bag with a star nozzle and pipe the mixture out onto non-stick baking parchment .

    Pipe the biscuits on the tray they will be baked on and make sure they are spaced sufficiently apart because they do expand.

    Bake the biscuits at 170°c for 15 minutes until lightly golden brown, then place them onto a wire rack to cool to room temperature .
    Melt the chocolate and drizzle across the biscuits leave to set .

    Saturday, 20 August 2011

    The best way to say Thank you is with Double chocolate cupcakes!

    As we have been away for a week, the task of looking after the family pet rabbit was given to our very lovely next door neighbours. As a thank you for feeding and fussing our bunny I decided to make and deliver some double chocolate cupcakes (I have missed baking while on holiday!) to the neighbour along with a pot of the blueberry jam I made yesterday.

    This recipe is a mixture of my mum's classic bun mixture along with the chocolate frosting recipe given to me by one of my baking buddies Kate who says the recipe comes from the Hummingbird bakery cupcake book. This is now on my Amazon wishlist. I do love a good cook book! The cakes and frosting both freeze well but I would freeze them separately and then assemble when defrosted.

    Double chocolate Cupcakes
    Makes 18 cakes approx.
    Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature before you start.
    For the cakes:
    150g unsalted butter
    150g caster sugar (I use golden caster sugar but you don't have to)
    3 free range eggs
    150g plain four
    2tsp baking flour
    2 tbsp cocoa powder preferably Green & Blacks as it gives a richer flavour, mixed into a paste with 2 tsps
    of water

    For the frosting:
    270g icing sugar
    100g unsalted butter
    30g  cocoa powder
    45ml whole milk (I have used semi skimmed before when I haven't had the whole milk which tasted fine)

    Preheat the oven to 180c.  Line 2 cupcake tins with paper cupcake cases.

    Cream together butter and sugar. I use my Kenwood chef mixer (which is my favourite bit of kitchen kit!) but you can use a electric whisk or even a wooden spoon.  Keep mixing until the mixture is light and fluffy.
    This will take a good 5 minutes or more.

    Next beat in the eggs one at a time with your mixer on continuously. If the mixture looks like it is going to curdle then add in a spoonful of flour.

    Sift the flour and baking powder into the creamed mixture and fold in gently.

    Mix the cocoa with 2 tsps of water to make a paste, fold this paste into the cake mixture until evenly distributed.

    Divide the mixture between the cake tins.

    Bake for around 15 minutes until springy to the touch.

    Remove from the tins immediately and place on a wire rack to cool.

    To make the frosting beat together the butter, icing sugar and cocoa powder. This mixture will look quite crumbly. Add the milk and beat until smooth.

    Once the cakes are cold either spread the frosting or pipe the frosting onto your cupcakes and Enjoy!

    Friday, 19 August 2011

    Blueberries overflow!

    Having just arrived back from a week away in sunny spain, I headed into the garden to pick some blueberries ready for my Great Nephew's arrival on sunday. He is a blueberry fiend and when he came to visit last year he quicky worked out what was on my bushes in the garden were the same thing as he gets out of a box from the supermarket.  He couldn't be kept away from my blueberry bushes!  But....even he would not get through the mountain of blueberries now ready for picking, so it was time to dust off my blueberry recipes and get baking!

    Blueberry Jam
    I always thought jam looked really difficult to make with jam themometers, muslin squares and jam sugar. So after a chat with my Dad (who always makes the jam at home) he gave me a quick jam recipe that he makes with his blackberries. I just swopped the fruit to blueberries!
    I make this jam with our homegrown blueberries when they are in season and then keep it in the fridge to give me a bluberry hit in the depths of winter!

    •550g blueberries
    •300g sugar
    •75 ml water

    Put the blueberries in a pan with the water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until the berries burst and release their juice. Make sure you stop and inhale the gorgeous scent of the bubbling berries.

    Add the sugar, stir until dissolved, then boil for 10 minutes.

    Pour into 1 large and 1 small sterilised jars, leave to cool, then cover and chill.

    Blueberry Crumble Cake
    This recipe is a bit of a hybrid cake recipe taken from an old american muffin recipe book with a  scrumptious crumb topping added. I particularly liked this recipe because of the large quantities of blueberries used! This can be served warm with a bit of clotted cream or ice cream. Yum! It also freezes well.

    10 oz (275 g) blueberries
     ½ level teaspoon ground cinnamon
     10 oz (275 g) plain flour
     1 level tablespoon baking powder
     ½ level teaspoon salt
     2 large eggs
     3 oz (75 g) caster sugar
     6 fl oz (170 ml) milk
     4 oz (110 g) butter, melted
    For the topping: 
     1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon
     3 oz (75 g) plain flour
     1 oz (25 g) butter, at room temperature
     3 oz (75 g) demerara sugar
    Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5, 375°F (190°C).
    You will also need a loose bottomed cake tin approx 23cm across which is greased and lined.

    Sift the dry ingredients twice, place the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a
    sieve and sift them into a bowl and repeat!

    In another mixing bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar and milk together.
    Pour the melted butter into the egg mixture, whisking once again.

    Now sift the flour mixture in on top of the egg mixture and fold it in, using as few folds as possible (ignore the lumpy appearance at this stage and don't be tempted to over-mix). Fold in the blueberries and spoon into the tin.

    To make the  crumble topping I always put all the ingredients into my food processor with the metal blade and pulse until a 'bread crumb' mixture is achieved (if you havent got a food processor you can rub the flour and butter together until you get the breadcrumb mix then stir in demerera sugar and cinnamon).  Next sprinkle in 1 tablespoon of cold water, then press the mixture loosely together.

    Now sprinkle this mixture all over the cake. Bake on the centre shelf of the oven for 1 hour 15minutes or until the cake feels springy in the centre. I have a fan oven and it was done after 1hr and 5 mins.

    After all this baking I now need to think about dinner. I think it will be Nigel Slater's sausage and mustard pasta for us. Nigel is a bit of a god as far as I am concerned. His "Real Food" book is so well used, some of the pages are a bit "scratch and sniff" now. (I am not the tidiest of cooks!)

    Thursday, 18 August 2011

    1st time blog better be better than my 1st time baking!

    My Earliest foray's into baking were under the guiding hand of my mum, an old fashioned Yorkshire woman who made all manner of cakes and biscuits to feed me and my four siblings. Mum made basic cakes and buns all the time. Nothing fussy or with posh names. In fact I grew up calling cupcakes "Buns" and it took me some years to work out that mum's bun recipe was the same as other peoples cupcake recipes.

    I count myself lucky that I had a Mum who taught me to cook the basics because from the basics I have been able to branch out and get a little more adventurous over the years!

    My first cooking sessions with my mum were not the greatest successes, but I did persevere and over the years I like to think I improved! The story of my best friend and I making Rock cakes is family legend. We were 10yrs old and  the mixture was so sticky our hands looked like rocks and the results were probably on a par with Hagrid's Rock cakes!  

    All of the recipes in this blog will have been tried and tested by me and occasionally some of my baking buddies. Some of the recipes will be Gluten and Lactose free as one of my best friends is a Coeliac sufferer with a lactose intolerance and I enjoy the challenge of creating good food that she can enjoy when she visits me here in the back of beyond!

    My husband is a bit of a gardener and we try to grow some of our own fruit and veg so some recipes will include our home grown produce, so I apologise in advance if I post a lot of blueberry recipes in the next few weeks!!