Hot Cross Buns and Easter Eggs

Hot Cross Buns

Last Easter I was busy packing all of our belongings into cardboard boxes as we prepared to make the life changing move out of London.  Our new destination was Kent, where I grew up and where my Mum and brother still live.  We had only been in one week when we packed more bags and set off up to Cheshire to see my in-laws for the Easter weekend.  Something we do most years.  At the time it seemed crazy after just moving house, but once we got there it was lovely to relax, have meals made for us and not unpack any boxes.  The weather was fantastic and on Easter day we were spoilt with an Easter egg hunt and plenty of chocolate.

This year without having to plan for a house move, I have been able to try making one of my most favourite things ever…hot cross buns.  I actually love and hot cross buns and would be thrilled to eat them all year round.  The way I like them is toasted, spread with unsalted butter and a cup of tea to wash it all down.

I have to say though that I’m not great at making bread items.  I truly believe that it is something that takes a lot of practice, so I continue trying in the hope that my next effort will be better than my last.  It’s a good job I think like this as my first attempt at hot cross buns were only just passable,  but my second attempt was pretty near to perfect in my eyes, (picture below).  I would have liked to know what Paul Hollywood thought of them!  I digress.  The most delightful thing about homemade hot cross buns are how much better they taste in comparison to shop brought which makes them totally worth the effort, even if they do take a few attempts to get right.

The basic hot cross bun recipe I followed can be found on the Baking Mad’s website.  A few things I have done differently that might be worth trying as well include:

  • Substituting 50g of plain flour for wholemeal flour
  • Adding chopped dates and dark chocolate chips instead of raisins
  • Using a 100g strong white flour, 25g butter, 125ml water and a pinch of sugar to make a paste.  Then put this in a small freezer bag, snip the end and pipe crosses

The Baking Mad website also have a number of other Easter recipes that are worth having a look at, they include simnel cake, cake pops, Easter cake and Easter cupcakes.

Easter Eggs

Another wonderful thing about Easter is of course Easter Eggs.  I love to look around the shops each year to see what temptations have been created.  I’m always drawn to eggs that are a bit unique or have something special about them.

Hotel Chocolat, who are fast becoming a firm favorite of mine have a marvelous Easter egg selection and I was lucky enough to be allowed one to review (or scoff which ever way you like to put it).  I picked the ‘You Crack Me Up‘ egg with extra thick shell because I loved the look of the chocolates that came inside.

Little happy faces, chicks, fried eggs and soliders all appeal to child in me and I thought it was likely that my own children would be wanting some of this egg too!

I was not disappointed.  All (and that is saying something) the chocolates were lovely.  If anything there could have been more!  The shell was indeed extra thick and gave the egg a real feel of quality.  I loved the packaging too.  It came in a gorgeous box and the egg itself was wrapped in the most lavish looking light gold foil.

I have had this egg for 3 days now and it’s nearly all gone already.  Easter egg reviewing…it’s a hard job but someone’s got to do it 😉

Many thanks to Hotel Chocolate sending me the Easter Egg to review and Baking Mad for sponsoring this post.

28/03/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Easter Baking, Reviews, Sweet Baking, Uncategorized. 1 comment.

Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard – My Story and Cheesecake Recipe

Well, my TV debut has finally aired and now I can scream at the top of my voice “I WON, I WON!!!” I still can’t quite believe it.  Yes, I went there with every intention of winning but I had no idea what my competition was going to be like or how things were going to turn out on the day.

I made so many cheesecakes in the week leading up the show and I really felt that I went on a cheesecake journey during that time.  Going from sheer panic to refining my ideas and feeling confident in what I was doing and looking forward to the day.

When I heard we were making cheesecake I was initially quite pleased…until my first cheesecake ended up looking like a cow pat.  I kid you not!  Making a large cheesecake in 2 hours I came to realise was not possible for me. My hat goes off to Christine who did manage it on the day.  I tried her raspberry cheesecake and it was superb.  The problem is it takes 50 mins to cook a large cheesecake and in an ordinary situation you are meant to leave it to completely cool in the fridge overnight before taking it out of its tin. When practicing at home, removal of the tin after a mere 15 mins of cooling, (due to the time constraints) made my large cheesecake efforts crack and dip in the middle.  It looked a bit more presentable covered in chocolate ganache but there was no way I could give it to Eric on national TV.

Then the lightbulb moment came.  I would make a little cheesecake. It would cook and cool quicker and because I could not decide on what flavour I was going to do, I came up with my next lightbulb idea of cooking 3 complimentary flavoured cheesecakes, each one with a different base and bespoke decorations.  The first time I tried to cook them, they came out perfectly and the relief was massive.  At least I there was a chance that I would cook something which had a chance of winning.

When the day came, I was up at the crack of dawn as we had to be at Cake Boy (Eric’s cake shop and cafe) by 8.30.  Once I got there I soon felt relaxed with a coffee and it was lovely to get to know my fellow contestants Christine and Hannah a little bit.

Cake Boy is gorgeous.  It has the most amazing selection of cakes which Eric bakes himself every morning and the comfy seating next to a wall of fairy lights is inspired and gave a magical feel to the place.  All of the production crew were extremely friendly too and talked us through what was going to happen during the day.  Considering we were the second to last episode to be filmed and there are 20 episodes in total, I think the team did so well.  They must have been exhausted from it all.

Just before we were about to start and as I was finishing my coffee, I looked up to see none other than Nigella Lawson sitting opposite me chatting to Eric about cakes (of course).  She had popped in with a couple of friends who were getting married and who wanted to order one of Eric’s spectacular wedding cakes.  I almost choked on my coffee.  What a fab start to the day to see Eric for the first time along with Nigella. Star struck? Quite possibly!

We then got to work filming some sound bites about why we wanted to take part in the show and what we were cooking.  Then we had to get our ingredients ready and the bake off began.  I thought I was feeling calm and collected and things were going well.  Then I took my cheesecakes out of the oven and with two cameras filming, all the production crew and the two other contestants watching I had to take all three out of their tins.  Possibly the hardest part as the tins are small and I had to push the cheesecake up and out.  So much could have gone wrong especially as they are still a bit soft when they first come out of the oven.  I was shaking like a leaf and could hardly cooridnate my fingers, but I managed all three and took a big sigh of relief.  Once out, I could relax a bit and start to decorate them.  I over whipped my cream which made it a bit hard to pipe, but other than that I was really pleased with the end results.

We had to wait for ages to take our creations into Eric, and when I did, he really gave nothing away.  Then we had to wait for even longer whilst they filmed Eric’s reactions to the cakes, but finally the time came for him to announce the winner.   I had come to realise by this point that in order to make a TV show, there needs to be lots of re-takes to get it just perfect.  This was indeed the case as well when announcing the winner.  Eric must have said, “and the winner is….” about 6 times, before he finally said, “…Fleur”.  At which point I actually almost cried.  It meant so much to me to have Eric pick me.  I knew I could bake, but to have a master cake maker pick me was such an amazing feeling.  I was so worried that I may have over done my flavours and he would not like them, but he told me afterwards that it was my flavours that made him pick me in the end and he liked the fact that I took a risk with something different.

I have to say though that Christine’s raspberry cheesecake,

and Hannah’s mini chocolate and hazelnut cheesecake,

were both AMAZING too!

Needless to say the masterclass was brilliant.  I got to know Eric a bit better, and there was plenty of banter so it was a real laugh.  We made a peanut butter and chocolate cheesecake covered in gold leaf and it was absolutely stunning.

A truly amazing day and a wonderful experience.  Something I won’t ever forget, and it has given me more confidence to continue with my baking and blogging.  Who knows what will be my next adventure but I’m looking forward to it already, and open to offers 😉

Here’s the link to the show. I’m in episode 16 🙂

Trio of mini cheesecakes, chocolate and chilli, cinnamon and ginger, and cardamom, vanilla and pistachio

What you will need:

50g ginger nut, bourbon and hobnob biscuits
3 x 20g unsalted butter

300g cream cheese
90g caster sugar
142ml sour cream
1 large egg and egg yolk

7-8 cardamom pods deseeded then seeds crushed in a pester and mortar
1 tsp of vanilla paste
20g pistachios finely chopped

2 tsp cocoa powder
4-5 drops of homemade chilli oil or chilli power to taste

20g crystallised ginger finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon

70ml double cream
50g plain chocolate

Crème fraiche
50 ml double cream whipped
30g white chocolate melted
1/2 tsp vanilla paste
Sprinkling of ground cinnamon, vanilla sugar and icing sugar
Sprig of fresh mint

3 3″ round tins
How to do it

1. Grease and line the bottom of 3 3″ round tins with parchment paper
2. Turn the oven onto 160c
3. Either separately whizz your 3 different types of biscuit in the food processor or put the biscuits in 3 separate freezer bags and bash with a rolling pin until the consistency of breadcrumbs
4. Melt 3 x  20g butter separately and mix each with the crushed biscuits in separate bowls
5. Add the biscuit and butter mixture to each of the tins and press into the bottom with the back of a spoon.  Put in the fridge
6. In a large mixing bowl mix the cream cheese and sugar together on a low speed
7. Add the egg and then egg yolk and continue to mix slowly
8. Add the sour cream and mix
9. Divide the mixture evenly into 3 bowls
10. In the first bowl add the cocoa powder and chilli oil and stir in with a spoon
11. In the second bowl add the crushed cardamom, vanilla paste and pistachios and stir in with a spoon
12. In the 3 bowl add the chopped ginger and cinnamon and stir in with a spoon
13. Get the 3 cake tins from the fridge and pour the ginger and cinnamon cheesecake mix into the tin with the ginger nut base, the chilli and chocolate cheesecake mix into the tin with a bourbon base and the cardamom, vanilla and pistachio cheesecake mix into the tin with the hobnob base
14. Boil the kettle, cover the bottom of the cake tins with foil (to make the tins more watertight) then place the 3 tins in a deep baking dish and pour in the boiling water until about half way up the sides of the tins
15. Place in the oven for 30
16. Once out leave in the tin to cool for 20 with a bowl over the top of the top (keeps the air moist whilst cooling so helping to prevent any cracks)
17. Once completely cool take out of tins
18. Now melt your cream and chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water
19. Once melted pour over the chocolate cheesecake and down the sides.  Work quickly and then wipe away any excess at the bottom to neaten up
21. Melt the white chocolate in a bowl over a pan of simmering water, place in a freezer bag, snip the end off and decorate the cheesecake with white chocolate stripes
20. Whip the cream and vanilla paste together, until stiff.  Place in a piping bag with a icing nozzle and pipe a cream decoration on the top of the cardamom, vanilla and pistachio cheesecake and sprinkle with vanilla sugar
21. Use a palette knife to smooth over a layer of crème fraiche on top of the ginger and cinnamon cheesecake, sprinkle with ground cinnamon and icing sugar and garnish with a sprig of fresh mint

Bakers notes

  • I used whole pistachios which I covered in gold leaf to decorate the cardamom, vanilla and pistachio cheesecake
  • I made simple sugar corkscrews for the ginger and cinnamon cheesecake out of melted sugar which I wrapped around the end of an oiled plastic fork

26/03/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , . Bake Off, Party, Sweet Baking. 18 comments.

I love a bit of retail therapy.  It used to be clothes that I ‘needed’ to shop for, and whilst I still love fashion, being a mum of 3 has certainly changed things for me in this area.  For a start my shopping time is now almost non existent.  Taking children clothes shopping is a definite ‘no no’ for me.  I tried it once and managed to lose a child (worst and longest 5 mins of my life) as well as cope with numerous tantrums and continuous whinging.  Never again!  The other issue is that whilst clothes look lovely in catalogues or on the rail in a shop, there is a high chance that they will be covered in snot/food/mud/paint/glue/playdoh/……. (fill in the blank) by the end of the day.  I could go on but I’m guessing that you understand my predicament, and if you are a mummy yourself, you might well be able to empathise.

It’s ok though because I have found a whole new world of things that I want to buy that won’t get ruined by children and can normally be researched and brought on the Internet quite easily, (husband rolls eyes and groans at this point).  Kitchen inventions, gadgets, bakeware, items for the house and home, however you like to put it, I’m loving it.  It seems the ‘baking bug’ that is sweeping the nation right now has brought an explosion of new ‘must have’ items.  Everywhere I look a new kitchen product is being marketed claiming that every home baker would be lost without it.  Whilst I think that negotiating my way through all of this is part of the fun, it can also be a bit daunting, and I have of course made mistakes and wasted money.   So I came up with the idea of sharing my top ten baking gadgets and kitchen inventions with you. These are just things I have got which in my opinion are great buys.  Things that I could not do without now and which I would recommend investing in if you are like me and a keen home baker.

1. Microplane Grater

For a long time I was happy just using the small grater on the side of my cheese grater when adding zest to recipes, but then I started to notice a new type of grater in cookbooks and on TV shows.   You don’t have to do much research to find claims that this grater makes magnificent flavoursome zest because of it’s design. It has little square shaped blades which are very sharp and I guess this cuts the zest off in such a way that it is deeper and less mushy.  Sounds a bit ‘pie in the sky’ but I decided to get a Lakeland version of this grater which was quite a bit cheaper than other makes, just to see what all the fuss is about.  Straight away I noticed a difference.  The zesting was easier and I have to agree that the taste of zest is much stronger in the bakes that I have made.  Be extra careful of your knuckle’s though, as the thought of catching them on this makes me grimace.

2. Silicone Pastry Brush

I love my silicone pastry brush and I often wonder why these were not on the market sooner.  The main advantage is that they are so much more hygienic than the ordinary pastry brush.  I could never get my old brush really clean and it always seemed to be sticky with whatever was on it before.  A silicone brush can be put through the dishwasher and comes out clean and dry.  As you can see from my ‘hot pink’ one they come in a range of fun colours making them appealing for children to use when baking with you.

3. Digital Scales

I used to have gorgeous looking kitchen scales.  It had a vintage design and always caught my eye when sitting on the side in the kitchen.  But I could never get really accurate measurements with it and the more baking and reading about baking I did the more I realised that my scales were just not going to cut it.  I needed digital scales, because baking is a science and for optimal results precise amounts of ingredients are required.  I brought a fairly cheap digital scale and instantly noticed a difference.  My baking has significantly improved even if I do say so myself and it has made me more confident and willing to try new things as a result.  If you are looking to get one I would recommend one that has lots of different measurement unit options as you will probably end up using them all.  Key units for me are grams and millilitres.

4. M1 Wilton Icing Tip

It was not until I got myself one of these tips that I could manage to make my cupcake icing look any good, and I’m really not exaggerating.  This tip has been a revelation to me.  It effortlessly creates the most beautiful icing swirls on top of cupcakes and I feel like my cupcakes are much more professional looking now.  You just start from the outside and work into the middle and it is as simple as that! You can also start in the middle and work out to create a gorgeous rose effect.  At around £2.50 they won’t break the bank either.

5. Kitchen Thermometer

This is a fairly recent purchase, but has been incredibly useful.  I have used it so much more than I thought I would.  I’ve been able to heat sugar to create decorations,  make italian meringues, macaroons, honeycomb and temper chocolate for my new silicone moulds.  I’m sure I will use it to make some kind of jam this summer too.  Before I had one I think I used it as a bit of an excuse not to do certain recipes and never really experimented very much with heating sugar.  But I was missing out because it is a lot of fun with some pretty amazing results.  You just need to look for ‘sugar corkscrew’ on You Tube to see a whole range of videos telling you how easy it is to make a most delightful little decorations for your desserts.  I have tried it and vouch for it being easy and extremely impressive.    One thing I would say is to make sure that all children and pets are completely out of the way when you make anything that requires heating sugar to a high temperature.  Common sense I know but I feel better for saying it.

6. Kitchen Aid

I know that this is not within everyone’s price range, but there was no question that this had to go on my top 10 list of kitchen inventions.  I got mine over 4 years ago and have used it most days ever since.  It mixes cake with ease, kneads dough beautifully, and I have never made a bad meringue with it.  I love the look of it on my kitchen work top, and would say that for me it has been money well spent.  I love my glass bowl too.  It is so helpful to see what the mixer is doing whilst getting the next bit ready.  If you love baking you won’t regret buying a mixer like this.  The rival to a Kitchen Aid is a Kenwood mixer, and I have used one of these too.  There is always lots of discussion in baking circles about which one is best but I think they are pretty equal in performance and features.  It probably boils down to which one you like the look of most in the end.

7. Silicone Coated Paper

Before I discovered this I would regularly find myself in sticky situations.  My weekly homemade pizza stuck to everything, (including non-stick foil) making it a nightmare to serve and on one occasion my husband nearly set the house on fire warming up a slice of pizza in the microwave that had a bit of foil still attached to the bottom!  Biscuits would adhere to the baking tray making them a disaster, and macaroons…don’t talk to me about macaroons!  Then I saw silicone coated paper that claimed to be non stick and it really does work.  For me it is a kitchen lifesaver and helps to make sure that all my hard baking work does not go to waste.  Don’t get this confused with greaseproof paper as it is not quite the same.  Lakeland call it non-stick paper but I have seen it as silicone coated paper as well.

8. Cake Release Spray

Not too dissimilar from what I have written about above except this is a very handy spray which I use when making cakes, brownies or anything like that. It is so easy to use and I have not had one sticky situation whilst using it. You can line the tins as well as use this but there is no need really as this stuff is so good.  It does cost a bit more than a knob of butter that you might ordinarily use to grease your tin but for the time it saves me and the consistent results I’m now a bit of a convert.

9. Palette knife

This is another item that I had no idea how much I would use it until I got one.  Perfect for smoothing buttercream onto cupcakes, levelling cake mixture in the tin, applying frosting to traybakes, covering cakes with icing, leaving a gorgeous squiggle on chocolate ganache etc etc.  I have no doubt that you will get your moneys worth if you invest in one. I only have a little one at the moment but will be investing in a larger one pretty soon.

10. Mini Morsels Cake Tin

Perfect for me, as love mini cakes, tarts, cupcakes.  They are just sooo cute!  I much prefer to eat one or two little tarts rather than eat a big one, and I would say that for those of us who bake a lot it is probably quite important not to make full size the whole time as I know I would probably be the size of a house before too long if I did.  If you have children, little cakes are perfect treats for any occasion, and you can impress your friends and family with a selection of mini cakes and bakes for a special afternoon tea.  Top tip: if you are making mini tarts, save a small ball of pastry to push your little cut out pastry bases into the holes in the tin without making marks on the pastry or risking putting your finger through it.

There you go!  I hope you have found this useful. Let me know what you think and what your favorite items in the kitchen are.

*This is not a sponsored post, all opinions and recommendations are my own.*

23/03/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , . Fleur's top 10. 25 comments.

Recipe For Love Bake Off

I’ve had such a busy couple of weeks and as a result I have lots of juicy blog posts to write.  So much in fact that I was not sure where to start.  However, the arrival of some photos and the coolest little video of my day taking part in Katie Fforde’s Recipe for Love bake off competition helped me to make my mind up.

I only actually heard about the competition a couple of days before it was due to close, but as soon as I did I knew that I just had to enter my mini cupcakes.  They seemed to fit the brief perfectly and I was thrilled to get an email telling me I was one of the five finalists.

The day itself was an incredible experience.  I won’t forget the excitement, adrenalin and fun for a long time.  In fact, there is so much ‘bake off’ chat happening in our house at the moment that my children have even started to make ‘sand cakes’ (instead of sand castles) for their own pretend bake offs.  My four year old pulled me outside to show me her latest creation today and announced, “This is my winning cake!”

Taking part also gave me the added bonus of a day out in London on my own, which may not seem like much to some but for a mum of 3 this was actually amazing.

I had practiced my mini cupcakes until we could eat no more, and as you can see from this video and the pictures, a great time was had by all, and I was very pleased with the way my cupcakes turned out.

I did not win, but I can honestly say that I was thrilled for Fatema (picture below).  Her reaction when Katie said her name was lovely to watch and I was just so thankful to have been given the opportunity to take part.

Katie was a complete professional and so complimentary of all our cakes.  I could tell that she really enjoyed the day. I’m guessing that might have something to do with the tasting and judging part at the end as well as spending the day with 5 very excited bakers. The team from Random House Publishing who had organised the event, did an amazing job too.  I’m sure that something like that takes a lot of hard work.  I went home with a fantastic bag of goodies including a copy of Katie’s new book Recipe of Love (all about a bake off competition) and the lovely bonus of more baking pals which is such a delight.  I’m sure that we will be supporting each other’s baking efforts for a long time to come.

The only problem now is that having competed in two bake offs, (details of my first bake off below) I want to do more!  I will be keeping my eye out for the next opportunity and if you see one, be sure to let me know. In the mean time, I think I will be getting my fix from Katie’s book.*Exciting News* You can look forward to more of my bake off action on Channel 4 this Monday (26th March) at 12.05pm when you can catch me taking part in Baking Mad with Eric Lanlard.  I’ll be putting up a blog post about that early next week too with photos and gossip from the day.

20/03/2012. Tags: , , , , , . Bake Off. 16 comments.

Crazy Scone Challenge!

In the blurb about my blog you will see the words “for busy mums who want to use their creative side”.  Well this post is written with that specifically in mind. Yesterday after picking my eldest from school, rushing home, giving all three their tea then dropping eldest at Rainbows, I had 40 whole minutes until I had to pick up. Wow, that is quite a chunk of time for someone like me.  I did not want to waste it so I carefully considered what to do. There were lots chores that I could have done like fold the washing, tidy the bedrooms, order my food shop or make some calls but instead I decided to set myself a challenge, and see if I could bake something in that time.  ‘Crazy” I hear you say!   Yes, I might agree with you there, after all I did not list the obvious option of sitting down and having a cup of tea but once I had the challenge idea in my head, there was no going back, I had to do it.

The requirements were quick, easy and something that the kids would like. Lots of scope there and after a rummage through my fridge and cupboards the decision was made. Little scones with feta, sundried tomato and caramelised balsamic onion.  Sweet, salty and tangy all at the same time, making these just a little bit more sophisticated than your average savory scone.  You might already know this about me, but I like to create mini sized food.  In this case I think the small size makes the scones much more versatile.  They are perfect for snack time, picnics (can’t wait now that the weather is improving) jazzing up your lunch and can even be made as little canapés served with chilli jam maybe?  They freeze well and can be defrosted and warmed up in a jiffy by using the microwave.

Little scones with feta, sundried tomato and caramelised balsamic onion

Here’s what you will need:

  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 40g/1 1/2 oz butter
  • 100ml (3 1/2 fl oz) milk and a little bit extra for brushing the tops of the scones
  • 6 sundried tomatoes
  • 25g feta cheese
  • 1 med onion chopped up finely
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Small scone cutter
  • Greased baking tray
  • Pastry brush (I use a silicone one and think they are fab)

Makes about 18 mini scones

So the big question now, is did I manage to make them in the 40 minutes?  Well here is how I got on.

How to make:

Time: 40 mins

  • First thing I did was to chop the onions up and I did this in my magimix as if I’m giving onion to the kids it has to be really small
  • Then I put the chopped onion in a small saucepan with the olive oil and let it cook on a low heat for about 5 mins.  I then turned the oven on to 220c/gas 7.
  • After 5 mins, add the vinegar and sugar to your onions.  Stir regularly and keep on a low heat

Time: 31 mins to go

  • Now I put the sundried tomatoes and feta cheese in the magimix and whizzed for about 5 seconds, until a rough paste is made.  I kept this to one side and started to make the scones
  • In a big mixing bowl add the flour and butter.  Mix together either by hand by rubbing through your fingertips, or in the mixer until it looks like breadcrumbs.  Add the tomato and feta paste along with the onions which should by now have had about 15 mins to cook in the saucepan and should be nice and soft and have absorbed the sugar and vinegar

Time: 22 mins to go

  • Mix the dry ingredients in, and once combined slowly add the milk and mix until a soft dough is formed
  • Take the dough out of the bowl and onto a lightly floured surface.  Lightly knead and then roll out.  Make sure that the dough rolled out thickly (about 3 cm) as this is the secret to lovely high scones.  Cut out the scones and place on the baking tray.  Bring leftover bits of dough together and roll out again until all the dough is used up

Time: 13 mins to go

  • Brush the tops with milk and place in the oven for 10-11 mins until the tops are golden

As soon as the scones came out, I turned off the oven, placed them onto a cooling rack and ran out the door to do the pick up.  I did not have time for the washing up so left the kitchen like a bit of a bombsite.

However, most of it went in the dishwasher, and I had  ‘ warm from the oven’ scones to munch on whilst I was doing it.  Not so bad after all!

I’m hoping that anybody out there who feels they don’t have time to bake will be inspired by my ‘Crazy Scone Challenge’ and find 40 mins today or tomorrow to get stuck in and create a little something that has the potential to make your day as these little beauties certainly made mine.

These scones can also be entered into the Tea Time Treats blog challenge which is savory or sweet scones!  This month the challenge is hosted by Karen from Lavender and Loveage and is shared with Kate from What Kate Baked.

15/03/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Party, Savory Baking. 9 comments.

Marbled Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringues inspired by Lisa Faulkner

Today the weather was pretty grim. It basically rained all day long.  It was not much fun doing the school run and I almost made the decision to skip after school ballet as I just wanted to stay dry.  But I managed to sum up the motivation and you’ll be glad to hear that we did all make it to ballet in the end.  Some days, (like today) I actually lose count of the amount of times I lift my youngest in and out of the car.  Luckily,  he seems to enjoy tagging along with his big sisters and is pretty laid back.  No doubt this is probably a result if being a third child and having to fit into the daily circus that is life in our household. My Giddy Aunt (she’s not really giddy, that’s just what we used to call her as kids) came to visit last week.  It was lovely to see her, but I do hope she will visit again.  I fear that we may have scared her off!! It must have been very loud and hectic here in comparison to normal life at home for her in the picturesque village of Melmerby in Cumbria.

I do get my evenings though and they are my sanctuary.  Peace and quiet with no one demanding my attention is bliss.  I normally have lots of accumulated jobs to do but I will make sure there is also time for a few guilty pleasures.  Maybe a hot bath with lots of bubbles, (door locked obviously in case anyone is not quite asleep), a glass of red with crackers and Roquefort, baking and then eating said baking, catching up on sky+ (tv is so rare for me these days) and reading blogs, baking magazines and cookbooks in bed! So rock and roll I know, but that is what I love.

Talking of cookbooks, the new random recipe challenge from Dom over at Bellau Kitchen is to pick book number 17!  Well I’ve got to say, that’s about as random as it gets Dom, (and Choclette) but 17 might have to be my new lucky number because my latest cookbook purchase turned out to be my number 17!  It might have rained all day today but this was really lucky because I love my new cookbook so much and am thrilled to be able to share a snippet with you.

It is Recipes From My Mother For My Daughter by Lisa Faulkner.  Lisa who won celebrity Masterchef in 2010 is someone I admire greatly.  I’d be lying if I did not admit to being a wee bit jealous of her too.  When her cookbook arrived I sat for ages looking through it and just dreamed of a day when I could create a cookbook like that too.  It’s beautiful!  But you will see if you get the chance that Lisa has worked so hard for her success.  At the start of the book there is a wonderful narrative where she opens up about what she calls her ‘food journey’.  She talks of the inspiration her mother gave her and about times in her life when baking helped her through.  I felt privileged to read it, and for me it makes the book even more special. It is a marvelous collection of seasonal recipes, each one with a special meaning to Lisa.  Some are her take on everyday classics like macaroni cheese, and others are suitable to serve at your next dinner party.  In fact, I’m going to make Lisa’s lemon sole fillets with shrimp butter on Saturday for friends who are coming over.  There is also a few gorgeous looking cakes to try which will satisfy those baking mad types…me!

For this blog post I have been inspired by Lisa’s hazelnut meringues which can be found on page 187 of the book. I know this will mean a few sweet blog posts in a row, but I just thought why not and I have a nice savory one planned for next week.  I willingly took Lisa’s advice where she writes; “I want you to experiment with these recipes, try them, substitute ingredients, posh them up, dress them down.” and have come up with Marbled Chocolate and Hazelnut Meringues.  So thank you Lisa, here it is, and I can safely say that I really enjoyed it!

Changes I have made from Lisa’s recipe include lowering the amount of sugar and chopped hazelnut as I felt that not as much of either was needed, but then I always try recipes with less sugar.  I have also added cocoa powder to create the chocolate marble flavour and effect.

What you will need:

  • 4 egg whites
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 75g toasted chopped hazelnuts
  • 1.5 tbsp of cocoa powder
  • 250ml double cream

Makes approx 8 sandwiched meringues

How to make:

  • Preheat your oven to 140c/275f/gas 1 and line 2 baking trays with non stick baking paper
  • Put 50g (save the other 25g for when the meringues are assembled after cooking) of your hazelnuts in a food processor and whiz until they are chopped up as small as possible.
  • Whisk the egg whites in an electric mixer until soft peaks form then add the sugar bit by bit and keep whisking until the meringue has stiff peaks
  • Use a large metal spoon to fold in your finely chopped hazelnuts
  • Now sieve your cocoa powder into the meringue and fold again but this time only do 3 or 4 turns with the spoon s o that a marbled effect is created
  • Now use a smaller spoon to create small balls of meringue on the baking tray and flatten slightly with the back of the spoon
  • Place in the oven for 1 hour and then turn off the oven and let the meringue sit in the oven until it cool completely.  These are quite good to cook in the evening and leave them to cool in the oven over night
  • When you are ready to make the meringues up, whip the double cream in an electric mixer until it forms soft peaks.  Keep you eye on it as it is very easy to over whip and be left with a bowl of clumpy cream
  • Then spread cream onto the flat slide of one of the meringues and sprinkle with a few of the chopped hazelnuts that you saved from putting into the food processor and then sandwich a second meringue on top. Continue until you have sandwiched all the meringues together

The other great news is because meringue stars with ‘M’ I can also enter into this months Alphabakes blog challenge run by Caroline from Caroline Makes and is shared Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker.  Love this challenge so thrilled to enter again.

07/03/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Homemade gifts, Sweet Baking. 11 comments.

Review – ‘Baked By Me’ Easter Cookie in a Jar

Most Saturday’s I’m left on my own with the children for the afternoon whilst hubby goes off to play rugby. Yes, it is quite annoying especially when I have been looking after the kids all week, but I know he really needs to do it. He works hard with long hours and a fair bit of stress so an afternoon of rugby is the perfect tonic for him. He comes back in such a good mood, even if he is injured or they lost the game which, even though I hate to say it, does make being a rugby widow worth it. Now, I know what you are all thinking…what a wonderful wife I am! And I have to agree with you all there 😉

I digress, back to Saturday afternoons! I don’t normally take the kids out because I think after a hectic week, it’s good to have a bit of time at home, plus with three of them to organise, a whole stack of energy is required to get out the door. So I look for something we can do at home and quite often we will get our aprons on and prepare to create a baking masterpiece…well that’s what my girls like to think anyway. This week we had the baking activity already planned because thanks to my new twitter pal Iris from Baked By Me (@bakedbymeuk) I had a Easter cookie jar on the side waiting to be used.

Baked by Me is a new business set up just a month ago. Iris tells me that she loves baking and wanted to share the joy with everyone and so Baked by Me was born. I greatly admire people who have the energy and courage to turn their dreams into reality, and I am thrilled that we got to try out some cookie mix.

The jar arrived in a cute little box and when I opened it up I was impressed with the look and feel. There were some nice touches too, a little hand written note, a fluffy Easter chick and gorgeous ribbon around the jar.

The first job for my four year old was to dig out all the mini eggs, and I could tell that she really enjoyed doing this. It was like a little treasure hunt digging in the sand for gold.

I thought there would maybe be 10 or so eggs hiding but they just kept on coming until we had a whole bowl full!

Then we needed to mix up some egg and butter, which was the only two ingredients I provided. Next, another good job for my four year old, we had to tip the dry ingredients from the jar into the mixing bowl.

After a couple minutes of mixing, we had the most delightfully smelling chocolate cookie dough. In fact I had to pause the proceedings whilst my girls filled their airways with chocolate.

Then it’s just a case of spooning dollops onto a baking tray and baking for 8-10 mins. Whilst waiting ALL the spoons were licked…the best part I’m sure!

As soon as they come out, the mini eggs go on, another enjoyable part for the girls, and then they are ready to eat. And what a lovely treat they were. Especially nice still warm and gooey from the oven.

It was a super activity and great for me not to have to weigh everything out. If you are looking for an alternative Easter gift this would be a fun option to consider. I might order a job lot and have them on standby for birthday presents. My girls seem to go to a party almost every weekend!

Take a look at the IBaked by Me website to see the whole range. The cost for a cookie mix jar from Baked By Me is between £8.80 and £9.80.

I wish Iris all the best with her new venture.

Disclaimer- I do not work for Baked By Me nor did not get paid to write this review.

04/03/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Easter Baking, Homemade for the kids, Homemade with the kids, Reviews, Sweet Baking. 4 comments.

First ‘Homemade By You’ Bake Club Meeting

This week was very exciting for one main reason.  I hosted my first ‘Homemade By You’ Bake Club, (round of applause).  I had been thinking about doing this for a few months, so to see the idea become reality was fantastic.  The concept is that members bring along a homemade ‘bake’ of their choice which fits with a monthly theme, (this month was chocolate and spring time) then they share the recipe and any tips with the other members all over a cup of tea and a slice of cake.

My thinking was that people would enjoy a reason to bake.  As I mentioned in my previous cake therapy post, this is something I actually look for and I was sure I would not be the only one.  I also hoped that by bringing people together who share the same passion there would be lots of happy cake chatter, and hopefully some new friendships too. I know my husband gets very bored of me talking about baking and all the ideas I have, so he for one was very keen on the idea of a bake club.

The night itself was everything I hoped it would be.  My guests went all out and brought an amazing selection of cakes and bakes with them.  They had clearly gone to a lot of trouble which was fantastic.  Here’s what was on the table:

French style chocolate gateaux cooked in the microwave.  A revelation to most of us and it was so moist as no chance of drying out in the oven.

Chocolate cupcakes, with a very cute vintage style floral decoration on the side of each one

Lemon, white chocolate and black pepper muffins. A new and gorgeous flavour combination.

Mini chocolate cheesecakes cut out from a big cheesecake by using a round cookie cutter.

Chocolate Easter fridge cake which had all manor of delightful ingredients including crushed mini eggs in the cake…superb!

Chocolate Guinness cake with marmalade and cream cheese frosting.  This cake looked and tasted amazing, and being Irish myself I fully approved of the addition of Guinness.

Chocolate, banana and honeycomb loaf cake.  My offering using the lovely Cakeboule’s recipe. Not much of this left at the end of the night, so must have been good.

I loved being able to cut a little slice of them all and try each one. Such treat to have a cake to try and the person who made it to ask questions about it. Thanks to everyone who came along and helped to make my first Bake Club such a success. 🙂

This brings me onto the next ‘Homemade By You’ Bake Club.  In fact I enjoyed it so much I’ve set dates for the next two.  If you would like to come along here are the details:

Next Bake Club

Date: 29th March 2012

 Time: 8pm – 10pm

Cost: £5 per person

Location: Chipstead, Sevenoaks

Theme: Seasonal delights

To book: Please email Don’t forget you can bring one non baking guest with you as well.  Just let me know when booking

Be quick! Places are limited and will be booked on a first come first served basis.

Following Bake Club – *date for your diary*

Date: Wednesday 2nd May 2012

Time: 8pm – 10pm

Cost: £5 per person

Location: Chipstead, Sevenoaks

Theme: Queen’s Jubilee

Booking: Please email me at to register interest and further details will be sent to you nearer the time.

02/03/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , . Bake Club, Sweet Baking. 11 comments.