After a very exciting day filming Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard yesterday, I came back to earth with a bit of a bump this morning. The school run was freezing, the washing mountain piled high and my baby boy not well at all. I still have a big smile on my face though and am so pleased that I went for it and enjoyed the experience. I feel even more inspired about my baking, which is amazing really given how much I loved it before. So today, to help with the reality blues I decided that a bit of baking was in order .

On Australia Day last week one of my Australian friends posted a picture of her lamingtons on Twitter and ever since I have been thinking about them. I have made them quite a few times before, but not for a while. If I had a Pinterest account I might have posted pictures of lamingtons on there, but I don’t (yet) so I made a mental note instead.

Lamingtons are essentially a plain sponge cut into squares, covered in chocolate and sprinkled with desiccated coconut. It’s not just any old sponge though, it is a sponge that is mostly eggs and flour, with a little bit of sugar and butter. The result is a sturdier sponge, (needed for the cutting into neat squares and then dunking in chocolate) that tastes amazing. A bit like a sponge/biscuit combo. The only thing that I can think of that compares is those little sponge fingers you can buy to make the base of your trifle with, except this sponge is not as crunchy as those by a long way.

There is no getting away from the fact that decorating lamingtons is a messy affair. Once dunked they need somewhere to ‘drip dry’ and the best place is on a cooling rack. My eldest daughter helped me with ours this evening. We had a lot of fun. It’s a great interpretation of messy play. As long as you don’t mind the licking of fingers, which will happen, my advice is to get stuck in and enjoy.

I should also mention that I have a special friend who moved to Australia last April for 3 years. I’m so proud of her for getting stuck into the Australian lifestyle and coping amazingly well with the change. So these cakes and this post is especially for Emily. I hope she makes some and can enjoy them too.

The recipe I use for reference is from Tanya Ramsay’s cookbook, Real Family Food’ (pg 224). I have made a few alterations for example, less chocolate icing because I had a fair bit left over when I made it to Tanya’s recipe, but that’s just my opinion. For tea time treat life saver, try making double the amount of sponge and freezing the extra squares until needed and icing them once defrosted.

What you will need

For the sponge

  • 3 eggs
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 125g self raising flour
  • 25g cornflour
  • 3 tbsp hot water
  • 25g unsalted butter, melted

For the chocolate icing

  • 250g icing sugar
  • 40g cocoa
  • 7g unsalted butter, melted
  • 110ml milk
  • 25g desiccated coconut for sprinkling on top

Makes 16 squares

How to make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4
  2. Lightly grease a medium rectangle shaped tin (approx 18cm x 23cm) and line with greaseproof paper
  3. Mix the eggs together in a large bowl until thick and creamy and then add the sugar and mix until dissolved
  4. Sieve in the flour and cornflour, then add the water and butter and mix with until smooth
  5. Pour into prepared tin and bake for about 30 mins. Place on a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely. Trim off any golden edges and then cut into medium sized squares. Though you might want to cut into smaller squares if you are making this mostly for kiddie consumption, or even use a cookie cutter for fun shapes, (although there will be some excess sponge with this option)
  6. For the chocolate icing sieve the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large bowl, add the milk, water and butter and stir together until smooth. Then, put the bowl over a pan of hot water and stir again until silky and glossy. Add a dash more milk if you think it is looking a bit thick or stiff.
  7. Use a fork to hold the sponge squares and dunk into the chocolate icing until completely covered. Pull out and let it drip for a few seconds over the bowl and then place on a cooling rack and sprinkle with the coconut. Leave to set and then tuck in. These are best eaten on the day you make them but can be kept for up to 3 days in an airtight container. As the letter for the first ever AlphaBake blog challenge is ‘L’ it would be rude not to enter this blog post. The Alpha Bake challenge is hosted this month by Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker blog. Ros shares the hosting of this challenge with Caroline from Caroline Bakes blog. Looking forward to seeing all the other entries.

31/01/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Homemade for the kids, Party, Sweet Baking, Uncategorized. 10 comments.

Shallot, Fig and Blue Cheese Tart Mixed With a Little Trip to London!

Only a quick post for you this week folks.  For those of you that don’t know I and heading down to London on Monday to take part in Channel 4’s programme, ‘Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard‘.  Filming is going to take place in Eric’s cake shop, Cake Boy and  I will be competing with two other bakers in a mini bake off to win a masterclass with Eric afterwards.  The theme is cheesecake, so as you can imagine I have cheesecake coming out of my ears at the moment with all of the practicing I have been doing.  I have finally decided on what sort of cheesecake I am going to bake and am now concentrating on the decoration.  I’m very excited and nervous all rolled into one!

I will be blogging the chosen cheesecake recipe in a few weeks, but today the recipe is for a fig, shallot and blue cheese tart.  I made this tart a week ago as we were hosting a family party at my house and although I was not catering completely (everyone was bringing something) I was keen to try out something new.  The other thing to say is that I LOVE figs, LOVE blue cheese and LOVE sweetly cooked onion so I was confident that this would get the big thumbs up from me.  These flavours just go so well together. Sweet fig and shallot, against the salty blue cheese brought together with cream and eggs. Superb!  But before I give you the recipe I wanted to list why I think savoury tarts are so special and definitely worth making from time to time.

  • They are a great winter supper cooked with a jacket potato and your choice of veg
  • Fantastic summer lunch served with salad and garlic bread
  • Versatile – eaten all year round
  • You can make double and freeze one (very handy mid week)
  • Great party food (mine did not last 2 mins)
  • Perfect for experimentation depending on what is in season and what your preferences are
  • Easy to make, especially if you use shop brought pastry which is perfectly acceptable and totally allowed

Now that you are all convinced that savoury tarts are a good thing to make, have a go at this.  You wont be disappointed.

This recipe was inspired from one I found on the BBC Good Food website, but I have made a few subtle but noticeable changes.

What you will need:


175g plain flour

75g wholemeal flour

150g unsalted butter cut into small cubes

1/2 tsp salt

1 egg


400g shallots, peeled and finely chopped

few springs of fresh thyme

dash of olive and a small knob of butter

3 tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 eggs

200ml crème fraiche

200ml double cream

140g blue cheese (your choice)

3-4 fresh figs, cut in half

A 20-23cm tart tin, greased

How to make:

I’m going to explain how I make my pastry in the food processor.  You can of course make it by hand, (or buy it) but this is so easy.  In fact, I would argue that it is much less effort than getting out the house and going to the shop…or maybe that is just me with 3 kids in tow.

1. Put the flour, salt and butter into the food processor and mix until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Add the egg and mix until a soft smooth dough is formed.  Wrap in cling film and put into the fridge for at least half an hour.  This pastry can be kept in the fridge for up to 4 days or frozen so a good one to make in advance.

2. Put the butter and olive oil in the saucepan, then add the shallots and thyme and start cooking on a low heat.  After about 5 mins add the balsamic vinegar and cook for a further 10 mins stirring regularly until soft

3. Preheat you oven to 200c/400f/gas 6.  Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured work surface, transfer to the tart tin, gently press the sides of the pastry into the tin, (to prevent it folding over in the oven) prick the base with a fork and blind bake with baking balls on top of greaseproof paper for 15 mins

4. Mix the eggs and cream in a large bowl, season and add the blue cheese.  Once cooled add your shallot mixture and stir together.

5. Once pastry is blind baked, take out of the oven and turn oven down to 170c/325f/gas 3.  Remove baking balls and greaseproof paper, then pour in your filling.  Place your cut figs, inside up around the tart.  Cook in the oven for about 50 mins – 1 hour until it as started to brown.  It should still have a bit of a wobble when you take it out.  It will continue to set as it cools.

PS:  I also did a review of some Valentines Chocs this week. Worth a read if you fancy putting some chocolates on your wish list for 14th Feb.

26/01/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Party, Savory Baking. 2 comments.

Yummy Scrummy Valentines Chocolates

Ok, I guess I ought to be up front here and say straight away that I’m a bit of a chocoholic.  There is always chocolate in my cupboard in some form or another and I reckon I will treat myself to some every other day, if not every day.  I try to be good, but some days there is just no getting away from the fact that more is required. I’m a firm believer that chocolate is good  for the soul and it has been a life saver for me on many occasion.

So when the opportunity came up to sample and review some chocolates from Hotel Chocolat’s valentines range, well I just could not say no.  What a fab perk for writing a food blog!  It also means that I have an excuse to tell you a little story about the first time I experienced Hotel Chocolat.

Two weeks before Christmas last year, Dave came to stay at my house.  I did not know Dave, and still don’t.   He works with my husband, but whilst out celebrating Christmas with the rest of the team he’d drunk so much that he had forgotten where he lived.  Still to this day my husband insists that he was being a good samaritan by bringing Dave back to ours rather than leaving him out in the cold.   I did not get much sleep that night, and Dave was quick to make an exit the next morning after the realisation of where he was dawned on him.  But that evening my husband came back with a box of Hotel Chocolat chocolates from an apologetic Dave, for me.  I was very pleased with my gift for the chocolates were fab, but I don’t think Dave will be coming back to stay in a hurry!

At the moment Hotel Chocolat have got a lovely selection of valentines gifts to suit a range of budgets.  What appeals to me is that all Hotel Chocolat products are a bit different and experimental.  Like a sweet shop but for grown ups.  So for example, in the adeptly named, ‘Season of Love Goody Bag‘ that I got to sample there were chocolate caramels, but not any old chocolate caramels, caramels with chilli.  Which I must add were amazing.  There was also caramel buttons (see what I mean about the adult sweet shop) a slab of raspberry riot chocolate which was a sweet, tangy, crunchy and pink extravaganza of chocolate loveliness.  And finally some cute heart shaped vanilla truffles.  It came in a lovely gift bag, which has also been used as a handbag by my two girls as soon as the chocolates had all gone, (added bonus).

So these get a big thumbs up from me, and thanks to Hotel Chocolat for allowing me to indulge in the name of research 😉

Disclaimer- I do not work for Hotel Chocolat nor did not get paid to write this review.

25/01/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Reviews. Leave a comment.

A packed Lunch Made with Love

I’m an old romantic at heart.  My husband and I literally met by bumping into each other on the street.  It was fate that he got off the bus just as I was walking past with my pal, and for our eyes to meet.  It could of easily been a ‘sliding doors’ scenario as a minute later and we would have been heading off in different directions, lost in the crowds having never seen each other.  Obviously, I’m so glad it wasn’t, as 13 years later we have been married for nearly 7 years and have 3 wonderful children.

Our household is a pretty busy place as our children are still young and as a result I think it is easy to forgot the romance when real life gets in the way.  My husband and I are like ships in the night sometimes.  He works long hours and as a result so do I.  It can be a struggle to find time for one another when we are both exhausted at the end of the day,  but its so important.  This is why I try and do something special every year for Valentines.  I’m not a fan of the commercial side of Valentines day so it won’t be anything big or costly.   Just a little token of love.

This year there was no doubt that anything I do for Valentines was going to be homemade.  After making 6 Christmas hampers and being a self confessed baking addict, it was also going to be edible.  It had to be unique but also useful.  Cupcakes look pretty but were just not going to cut it, I’d make 12, he’d eat 1 and then have a sandwich!  Same with most other treats.  Then the idea of a valentines packed lunch came to me.  At the moment my husband buys his lunch spending far too much on a dry sandwiches,  but he has no incentive to make his lunch and I don’t have time ordinarily either.  A packed lunch made with love would be perfect.  I spent quite a while working out what I would make him.  A number of criteria had to be met including portability, deliciousness and thoughtfulness.  Below is what I came up with.  I hope it inspires you to do the same for your partner or for someone you care about this valentines.

For all the recipes I am giving you enough to make more than just one packed lunch.  No point going to all that effort if you can’t enjoy some of it too.  You could even invite a friend over for lunch on the day you make it all to join in with the enjoyment and impress by pretending that this is the sort of lunch you eat every day!

You can be as creative as you like in packaging it all up.  A ribbon and a tag would be a nice finish I think.

Blood orange, walnut and goats cheese salad with avocado hearts

This salad uses ingredients that I love and means you can justify buying lots of blood oranges which are amazing but only in season now for a short few weeks.

What you will need:


  • packet of ruby gem lettuce, or any other lettuce with red in
  • 100g goats cheese
  • 4 blood oranges
  • 50g walnuts chopped
  • 1 avocado (needs to be fairly large)


  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp blood red orange juice
  • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp walnut oil
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • Small heart cookie cutter

How to make:

  1. Wash and chop your lettuce and arrange in the bottom of a Tupperware dish.
  2. Cut the ends off your oranges and then use a knife to cut off the peel and pith working from the top down and round the orange.  Cut into chunky slices and arrange on top of lettuce.
  3. Crumble a portion of the goats cheese and sprinkle on top of salad, then add some of your chopped walnuts onto the salad.
  4. Cut your avocado in half, skin and take the stone out then cut thin slices.  There should be the fat bottom bit on each slice.  Use this to cut out your hearts and place on top of the salad.
  5. Finally, to make the dressing mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl or dish then pour over the salad using as much as you think it needs

Sundried tomato, basil and cheese rolls

Keeping with the theme of valentines, I thought these rolls would be perfect as when the lucky recipient cuts into them they will find a gorgeous red inside.

Makes about 8 large rolls (freeze any you don’t use)

What you will need:

  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • 200g strong wholemeal bread flour
  • 7 sundried tomatoes chopped
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 1 sachet of 7g dried yeast
  • 75g grated cheddar cheese
  • 450ml hand hot water – not too hot or it will kill the yeast
  • Sunflower seeds for top (optional)

How to make:

  1. Put the flour, salt, tomato puree and yeast into a bowl
  2. Add water and mix with hands until a dough is formed.  Remove from bowl and knead for 10 mins.  Alternatively, use a dough hook on an electric mixer for 5-6 mins
  3. Use your hands to push the dough out flat onto your work surface and put cheese, sundried tomatoes and basil in the middle on top. Fold the edges of the dough back over the cheese, tomatoes and basil and then lightly knead for a few minutes until you think everything has been incorporated into the dough.  You might find that bits fall off as you go but don’t worry just pick up and place back into the dough and you will soon start to see that most it has been mixed in
  4. Once you feel the cheese, tomatoes and basil had been evenly mixed into the dough, put it back into the bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for an hour, or until doubled in size
  5. Gently take you dough out of the bowl and gently knead to punch the air out of it and then make 8 or so small rounds of dough and place on a baking sheet.  Cover with cling film again and leave for another 30-40 mins somewhere warm.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200c/400f/gas 6.  The small balls should have grown into bigger rolls.  Don’t worry if they are slightly misshapen, I think this adds the homemade appeal.  At this point I put a sunflower seed heart on top of my rolls and then placed them in the oven.  Feel free to miss out the sunflower seeds if you wish
  7. Bake for about 20-30 mins.  Timings will depend on the size of your rolls but you are looking for a crusty top and a hollow sound if you tap the bottom

Red velvet mini heart cakes with orange cream cheese frosting

I adapted this recipe from my Hummingbird Bakery cook book.  I used natural red colouring (mine was Dr Oetker), and found the silicone heart shaped bakeware in my local Sainsburys, (and I was extremely chuffed too).  If you cant find the heart moulds, small round cake tins would be fine as well.  I hope you are getting the red theme here folks 🙂

Makes 4 small cakes

What you will need:


  • 60 g unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 10g cocoa powder
  • 20 ml red food colouring
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 120ml butter milk
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp bicarb of soda
  • 1 1/2 tsp white wine vinegar


  • 300g icing sugar
  • 50g butter, room temperature
  • 125g cream cheese
  • 1 tsp orange extract
  • A few sprinkle decorations of your choice. I used white chocolate stars and mini chocolate stars, both found down the baking aisle of my local Sainsburys

How to make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c/325f/gas 3). Mix the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add the egg and mix until incorporated
  2. In a separate bowl mix the cocoa powder, red colouring and vanilla extract to make a paste
  3. Add the paste to your butter, sugar and egg mixture and mix well
  4. Then add half the buttermilk and mix, then half the flour and mix, then the remaining buttermilk and mix and the remaining flour and mix
  5. Add the salt, bicarb of soda and vinegar and beat well for a couple of minutes.
  6. Pour mixture into your cake tine and bake for 25 mins until the top is slightly firm to touch and a knife comes out clean.  Take cakes out of their tins and leave to cool on a wire rack
  7. To make the frosting mix the butter and sugar together in a bowl with an electric whisk.  Add the cream cheese and orange extract and beat until smooth
  8. Ice your cakes with the frosting using a palette knife if you have one and then sprinkle our chosen decoration on top

Present on Valentines morning, and expect a few ‘nom, nom, nom’ texts throughout the day…for the sake of my lovely blog readers, my husband got his packed lunch early!

I’m also entering this into Cakeboule’s virtual valentines craft and bake competition 2012.  Looking forward to seeing all the other entries too.

20/01/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Homemade gifts, Savory Baking, Sweet Baking. 6 comments.

New Year Blog Challenge – Low Calorie Blueberry Muffins

This week has been quite exciting.  The people at were looking for food bloggers to take part in a new year healthy baking challenge. Always up for a challenge, especially a baking one I got in touch and they sent me a list of low calorie baking recipes and asked me to choose one to make and review. So I picked low calorie blueberry muffins because I was interested to see if a low calorie version would be just as good as the real thing.

A link to the recipe I used is here.

A few days later the postman knocked on my door and gave me a little cardboard box. Inside was a packet of Allinson’s nature friendly flour and packet of Silver Spoon half spoon sugar.  When reading the small print on the packs I was pleasantly surprised at the reasons why the flour is branded nature friendly.  It uses conservation grade wheat which is where farmers actively manage their farmland to promote bio-diversity and conditions where wildlife can flourish.  I like the sound of that.  But reading the back of the silver spoon half spoon sugar pack I was a bit disappointed to see that it contained artificial sweetener.  Not something I really like to use if I’m honest, but then there is half the sugar required in this recipe to a normal blueberry muffin recipe (I checked) and so that is quite a bonus especially if you are on the dreaded new year diet.

So today was the day I decided to complete the challenge.  I set everything up and called my 6 year to see if she wanted to help.  There is no electric mixer involved, just a little whisking and stirring, so she could pretty much do everything, which I think she found very rewarding. She took ages putting the batter in the cases and it was lovely to see her take care to do it properly and really get into the task.

They came out of the oven looking beautiful. Nicely risen with a few gorgeous purple blueberries bubbling at the surface. And I have to say they tasted pretty good too!  They would certainly hit the mid afternoon ‘snack attack’ spot and I definitely did not feel quite as guilty eating one of these in comparison to a normal muffin or slice of cake.  Might even pack one in my gym bag tomorrow as a treat for afterwards.  I’m going to freeze a few too as I think they would be nice as an alternative to breakfast at some point in the week, especially if I’m running late and need breakfast on the go.  My 6 year old loved them!  She came through to the kitchen after eating one and said they were delicious!  This is quite a compliment as she has a sweet tooth, so I guess she did not notice the fact that these had a lot less sugar in which is great.

Overall, I would say these are a quick and easy muffin recipe which is certainly worth a try.  Next time I’m tempted to swap the flour to wholemeal self raising and to try it with the same amount of normal sugar to see how that tastes and turns out. Anyone gets there before me let me know.

Disclaimer- I do not work for Baking Mad nor did not get paid to write this review.

14/01/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Homemade for the kids, Sweet Baking. 8 comments.

Individual Apple and Rhubarb Tart with Lavender Frangipane

Baking in season is something I try hard achieve, but this time of year is probably when it is most difficult. If I’m quite honest I am a bit fed up of root vegetables, brussels, satsumas and the like yet with no signs of the much longed for spring just yet I was looking for a bit of inspiration. Then on a trip to my local supermarket I spotted British Bramley apples and rhubarb, and snapped them up in an instant. I did not know what I was going to do with them but the colours alone put me in a good mood and both of my daughters were excited to see me buying ‘pink sticks’. For the rest of that day and evening my mind was buzzing with ideas. I felt a bit sorry for my husband who was half asleep lying next to me at 11.30pm, and I was sitting up right pad and pen on one side and Ipad on the other asking him if he thought apple and rhubarb went with this or with that. By the time my eyelids finally closed, (thankfully not too much later) I’d got the foundation of a recipe. When I woke up the next day I was really excited to bake my idea. I found it a bit nerve wracking to make as so much time, effort and energy had gone into it already that failure was not really an option. I have of course dealt with many failures before and I get over them (in the end) by putting it down to experience, but this time I really hoped for success. So what did I do with my apple and rhubarb? Well I added another British ingredient, lavender, and included my current favourite tart filler frangipane to create an apple and rhubarb tart with lavender frangipane. The fruit and floral combination is unique but as I hoped it really works. I mean really, really works. When I ate it I tasted spring and this made me very happy indeed. I love the name of the tart too. Sophisticated I think, and would look great on a dinner party menu.

It is true that there are quite a few steps to this recipe but one way to make it a bit easier is to buy shop brought shortcrust pastry which would be a very suitable alternative to making your own. The lavender sugar can also be shop brought, (here is an example, but just note this is granulated sugar not caster sugar so will need a quick whizz in the food processor first for this recipe) or you can easily make your own by combining 500g of caster sugar with 4 heaped tbsps of dried culinary use lavender (example here) in a sterilised airtight glass container. It is best left for 6 weeks or so but can be used after 2 weeks. The dried lavender can be from your own garden if you are lucky enough to have dried some from last year as long as it is any variety of lavender augustifolia (best for use in cooking). If not it is well worth drying some this year to make some lavender sugar. I have recently brought a new cook book called Prepped by Vanessa Kimbell (@vanessakimbell) and there is a whole chapter of recipes using lavender both sweet and savoury.

What you will need

  • 6 greased individual tart cases, preferably with the loose bottoms (mine were 10cms diameter)
  • baking beans
  • rolling pin


  • 175g plain flour
  • 100g cold butter
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 1 free range egg yolk
  • 1 tbsp icy water


  • 125g butter, softened
  • 125g lavender sugar
  • 125g ground almonds
  • 2 free range eggs
  • 1 tbsp plain flour


  • 3 Bramley apples peeled and cored. Half cut into slices and the other half into small cubes
  • 400g rhubarb
  • 160g sugar
  • 200ml water
  • A sprinkling of toasted flaked almond for each tart (optional)

How to make

  1. I make the pastry in a food processor. It is easy and quick and has so far produced lovely pastry. Put the flour, butter and icing sugar in the food processor and mix until it starts to look like breadcrumbs
  2. Then add the egg yolk and water and mix until a soft dough is formed
  3. The dough should come out smooth, if not just knead it gently once you take it out then cover with cling film and put into the fridge for at least 15 mins. I left mine for a couple of hours and it was fine. Come out feeling rock hard but very quickly becomes soft and workable
  4. Now prepare your rhubarb by adding it to a large saucepan along with the sugar and water. Simmer on a low heat for about 30 mins until soft and cooked. Put to one side to cool
  5. To make the frangipane mix the butter and lavender sugar in an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Then add the eggs and mix until they have been combined. Then add the ground almonds and flour and fold in with a large metal spoon. Put to one side.
  6. Pre heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4. Now get your pastry out of the fridge and break off a small ball, and start to roll out with your rolling pin.
  7. One of the best tips I took away from watching the Great British Bake Off last year was to place the loose bottom of my tart tin under the pastry, roll over it so I can see it through the pastry. Then in your mind add another 3-4cms onto the diameter of the bottom of the tart tin and cut round in a circle. Then lift the cut out pastry with the bottom of the tart tin still underneath, and place in the tart tin case. What you should have is enough pastry to cover the bottom and now the sides of the tart tin, with hopefully no cracks or patchwork needed
  8. Spend some time carefully pushing the pastry into the grooves of the tart tin as this will stop the pastry from folding in when it is blind baked. Then make a few prick marks on thebottom with a fork, place a small round of greaseproof paper on top of the pastry and a few baking beans. Then, when all the tart cases have pastry in them, put in the oven for about 12- 15 mins
  9. Prepare your apples by peeling, coring and cutting them up, and strain your rhubarb by pushing through a sieve until you have pushed as much liquid out as possible. Need to make sure of this to avoid a soggy bottom in your tart
  10. When the pastry cases have come out of the oven turn it down to 170c/325f/gas 3. Remove greaseproof paper and baking balls and let cool for about 15 mins. Then put a layer of rhubarb on the bottom, sprinkle some of the cubed apple on top of the rhubarb, fill the tart with the lavender frangipane, and finally place some sliced apples on top in a circular fashion to create a pretty pattern. I then sprinkled a few toasted flaked almonds on top to finish if you wish
  11. Place in the oven and cook for about 30 mins
  12. Best eaten warm and served with cream or ice cream

Final thing for me to mention this week is that I am blatantly looking for votes for the Dorset Cereals Little Blog Award this month. The blog with most votes at the end of the month wins some Dorset Cereal goodies (most needed in our house as we are cereal monsters) and the coveted winners egg cup! Thanks to everyone who has voted already and those of you who have not I would be very grateful if you enjoy my blog to just pop over and give me your vote. I’ll let you know how I get on. 🙂

Dorset Cereals little blog awards

09/01/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Sweet Baking. 4 comments.

After School Tea Time Treat – Chocolate and Banana Marbled Loaf Cake

So it is back to school tomorrow for my eldest.  I have loved having all of my children at home throughout the holidays and not having to do a school run is bliss, especially in the current windy and rainy weather.  However, I think we are all ready to get back into the school routine.  My girls have been bickering more than usual the last few days and I think it is because they have seen rather a lot of each other recently.

I’m lucky in a way because I don’t have to think about packed lunches at the moment.  My eldest daughter has school dinners and my middle daughter is home from pre school in time to have lunch with me every day.  This does not save me the chore of cooking a hot meal for them in the evening though because I know that the school dinner is not consistently eaten and I have to do a hot meal for the rest of the family in any case.  So the norm each day is for my eldest to come home pretty hungry.  I can tell within 5 mins of collecting her whether or not she has eaten well at lunch time or not by the mood she is in.  It’s quite simple:

Bad = little hot lunch or sandwiches eaten

Good = most of hot lunch eaten (normally only on a Friday when its fish and chips)

I can’t say I blame her.  I get in a bad mood too if I am hungry, so when we get home an after school snack is most definitely needed to save the otherwise inevitable melt down. I want to try and provide something relatively healthy and avoid anything loaded with sugar or other baddies as this ends up making matters worse.  Over excited children after school – not good.  One of their favourites is a chocolate and banana marbled loaf cake that is so easy to make you could probably do it with your eyes shut, and that is no exaggeration!  It is also an excellent way to use up over ripe bananas or indeed half eaten bananas (with mushy end cut off obviously) which always seem to be hanging around my house.  The list of ingredients is simple too, and I’d be surprised if you needed to buy much.  I normally get at least one child involved in the making too.  It’s a very good kiddie friendly recipe and they will be pleased as punch with the result.  It is easy to eat, beautifully moist and perfect just by itself .  When I give this cake to my children I feel good for two reasons;  a) it has fruit in it,  b) I made it, so I know exactly what they are eating.  I should also mention that after a long day with the kids, this tastes amazing with a cup of tea.

What you will need:

  • 225g self raising flour
  • 100g butter, room temperature and cut into small cubes
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 350g (peeled weight) banana, mashed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • Small loaf tin, greased

How to make:

  1. Pre heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4
  2. Put all the ingredients apart from the cocoa powder into a large mixing bowl and combine with an electric mixer until a thickish cake batter is formed
  3. Put half the mixture into a separate bowl. Sieve the cocoa powder into one half and fold in with a large metal spoon
  4. Pour the chocolate cake batter back into the first bowl and fold the two batters together very gently, just 3-4 turns should do it so that a marble effect is created.
  5. Transfer the batter into the cake tin, gently smooth over the top and place in the oven for about 50 mins until a knife comes out cleanThis loaf cake should also do nicely for Karen and Kate’s January Tea Time Treats Challenge, which this month is sweet pastries and bread.

04/01/2012. Tags: , , , , , , . Homemade for the kids, Sweet Baking, Uncategorized. 10 comments.