Time for a change…

Just a quick post to let you all know that Friday is a pretty big day for my little blog as it’s goodbye to ‘Homemade by Fleur’ as you know it and hello to a snazzy new look and self hosted blog!  Behind the scenes my brother (who’s pretty clever when it comes to things like this) and I have been working hard.  There have been quite a few late nights, but it’s been great fun and I am so excited to show it to you.

I wanted to mention a couple of things that will change as a result of moving across to the new blog.

Firstly, there will be a new web address for my blog.  A redirect from the old site will be in place so you will get taken straight to it if you go to the old address but it might be worth making a note of the new address on Friday and using that as much as possible if you can.

Secondly, all my WordPress blog subscribers (ie if you have your own wordpress blog and have subscribed to my blog) will need to re-subscribe on my new blog. It’s a bore I know, and I’m really sorry about having to ask you to do it.  It’s just one of those annoying technical hiccups that cant be avoided.   Look out for the subscribe box in the top right hand corner of the new blog.  It only takes a minute to re-subscribe, and is very quick and painless I promise.  I hate the thought of losing any of you through the moving process so would love you hook up with the new blog too if you can.

The good news is that all my email subscribers (ie if you don’t have a wordpress blog) will be moved across and automatically subscribed to my new blog. Phew!

So I look forward to welcoming you on Friday to my new blog.  I will be posting a big hello so look out for that on Twitter and Facebook.  I also have a cheeky giveaway to celebrate the launch.

Fleur x

23/05/2012. Uncategorized. 7 comments.

Jubilee Themed Bake Club and ‘Bake it Pink’ for June

I can’t quite believe that my 3rd Bake Club has been and gone already. I’ve had such fun organising them and meeting lots of new people who have a passion for baking just like me. We always end up chattering away and losing track of the time.

This month the theme was ‘Queen’s Jubilee’, which is rather helpful of course as this links in very nicely with the Jubilee Competition that I am running on my blog at the moment. So I’m hoping that a round up of all the cakes might help to give you a little bit of inspiration to get baking. After all a bank holiday is the perfect time to get into the kitchen with the additional day off. As usual my guests completely exceeded my expectations with their creations. All fabulous and suitably regal. So if you are ready, lets indulge.

First up was Christina’s fruit decorated chocolate fudge cake. Christina tells me that she got the recipe from this months Good Housekeeping. She halved the quantities because it said the cake would serve 40!!! As you can see it was still pretty sizable, but a much more manageable. It was chocoholics dream with the rich chocolate sponge and white chocolate buttercream and it tasted amazing.

Then came Abi’s orange flavoured crown cake with fresh fruit, white chocolate and raspberry coulis. Abi explained that she had combined a number of recipes to make the various parts to this cake. The orange taste was incredible. You could really taste fresh orange with every bite. I love the idea of using sponge fingers around the cake too.

Then Vicky brought a Almond and rhubarb loaf cake made with rhubarb from her own garden. Now you can’t get more British than that! The flavours were gorgeous. I could really taste the almond and cinnamon that had been added.

Lastly, there was my white chocolate and elderflower victoria sponge cake. I used a Nigella victoria sponge cake recipe, (which can be found on pg 26 of her cookbook, How to Eat) and added 2 tbsp of elderflower cordial to the cake batter and 3 tbsp of cordial to the fresh cream that I whipped up to fill and top the cake with. I also drizzled melted white chocolate on the cream in the middle of the cake and again in the top. Don’t hold back with the white chocolate, just go for it. The little white chocolate crowns were an idea I got from talented Sew White. You can see a little video on how to make them here. They were great fun to do and I was very pleased with the final cake.

As June is the perfect time to hunt for fresh elderflower you could always make your own cordial. I will be doing this for sure. Karen from Lavender and Loveage has a great recipe over on her blog.

Next Bake Club and New Ideas

I’m feeling more experienced now having run 3 Bake Clubs and it’s been great getting a feel for what people want and how they run. I’ve had a few ideas which I hope will make my Bake Club even better than before. Let me know what you think.

  • Running a charity Bake Club twice a year, starting next month. On the 13th June the theme is ‘bake it pink‘ and all entrance fees will be going to a Breast Cancer Care. My very good friend Anna will be coming along to support the evening. Anna found out late 2010 that she had breast cancer and endured an incredibly hard year battling the disease. Her strength and courage has been an ongoing inspiration to me and I tell her on a regular basis that I think she is amazing. She has even signed up to do the London Marathon next year! There will be some time allocated to allow Anna to share her experience and talk about breast cancer awareness on the night.
  • Organising a number of talks/presentations for the next few Bake Clubs, as I really think there is room for everyone to learn more from each other and from any special guests that I might get in. I’m not talking anything that will take away too much time, just 20 mins focusing on a particular baking related subject. For example at either the July or August Bake Club one guest has already offered to share her macaroon tips.
  • Investigating avenues to donate any left over cake to a local old people’s home if guests do not wish to take all the cake home with them.

How to book for the June charity Bake Club:

Here are all the details you need, but essentially all you need to do is drop me a line at: homemadebyfleur@gmail.com

Bake Club dates for your diary:

  • 18th July 2012
  • 29th Aug 2012

Both based in Sevenoaks

Finally, the great thing about my white chocolate and elderflower victoria sponge cake is that I can also enter it into two blog challenges this month. Tea Time Treats hosted by Karen from Lavender and Lovage and Kate from What Kate Baked has gone all floral this month so the elderflower in my cake certainly counts there. Also, the Forever Nigella blog challenge created by Maison Cupcake and hosted this month by Nelly’s Cupcakes has a Jubilee theme. So thank you to Nigella for the fantastic and extremely easy sponge recipe which made a fab base to my cake and qualified me to enter Forever Nigella this month.

Tea Time Treats

05/05/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , . Bake Club, Cakes, Sweet Baking, Uncategorized. 11 comments.

‘Cute as a Button’ Frownies

Chocolate brownies are pure indulgence in my opinion, and perfect for chocoholics like me. They never fail to impress and are always first to sell out at the local cake sale. I like to eat mine with a hot frothy cappuccino on the side.

But I keep wondering if I could make those little squares of gooey dark loveliness even better. My mind whirred into action recently when I read about an opportunity on Bakingmad.com to have a recipe published in a new baking book that is being created in partnership with Silver Spoon and Macmillian Cancer Support.  The book is called Little Book of Treats and will be sold in Marks and Spencer stores around the country in August and September this year.  Fingers crossed my recipe gets chosen to go in the book.

The brief was to be innovative and exciting, but with a touch of luxuriousness. What better excuse to get my thinking cap on and turn my kitchen into a brownie experimentation lab.

I knew right from the start that my experimentation should primarily involve adding ingredients to the brownie mix, and over the next few days my mind was full of ideas. Most thoughts got dismissed straight away either because they had been done before or they just did not seem special enough. But then an idea came to me which I thought was perfect.

Let me introduce to you my ‘Cute as a Button’ Frownies. No that’s not a spelling mistake.  A Frownie is my very own combination of flapjack and brownie, bringing the best elements of two popular tea time treats into one delicious square of cake.

The main added ingredients are oats, hazelnuts and dates. The end result is a chocolate treat that is more satisfying and gives the lucky person eating it both brownie gooeyness and flapjack chewiness.

Why are they so cute? Because I’ve topped them with my own homemade chocolate buttons which happen to be my favourite decoration at the moment. These could quite easily be topped with a shop brought chocolate button too.

My Frownies are easy to make, look scrumptious and taste amazing.  I don’t think you need any more convincing. Here’s the recipe.

What you need:

  • 200g luxury dark chocolate, roughly chopped
  • 175g unsalted butter
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 100g plain flour
  • 100g chopped dates (mine were pre chopped so I let them sit in hot water for 10 mins before I used them just to soften them up a bit.  Don’t forget to drain the water before you add to the mix)
  • 50g chopped hazelnuts
  • 50g oats
  • 3 large eggs
  • 50g white chocolate and a button mould (I got mine from the lovely Sew White) if making own or a packet of chocolate buttons
  • 21 x 27 cm baking tin greased and lined with greaseproof paper
  • Makes 12 medium squares or 24 mini squares

How to make:

  1. Preheat the oven to 170c/325f/gas 3
  2. Put the chocolate and butter in a large heatproof mixing bowl over a pan of simmering water and melt together
  3. Mix in the sugar and stir until dissolved, then add the flour, dates, oats and hazelnuts and give it a good stir
  4. Finally add the eggs and stir again until completely mixed in then pour into the baking tin and gently smooth over
  5. Put in the oven for 25-30 mins.  I tested mine after 25 mins with a knife and it came out with a bit of residue on, but I think for brownies this is fine as they are meant to be gooey inside.  If it is a wet residue then it needs a bit longer
  6. Leave in tin for 10 mins then cool on a wrack.  Cut into desired pieces and decorate with buttons sticking them on with a little bit of melted chocolate

I’m also going to enter this into a favorite blog challenge of mine, Alphabakes hosted this month by Ros from ‘The More Than Occasional Baker‘ blog. Ros shares the hosting of this challenge Caroline from ‘Caroline Makes‘ blog.  This month the letter is B and on the basis that my Frownie creation is a variation of a Brownie, I can link to the letter B and enter🙂

Don’t forget that my Natural Selection baking hamper giveaway is still running until 24th April and it includes chopped dates!  Just comment on the giveaway blog post to be in with a chance of winning.

17/04/2012. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Homemade gifts, Sweet Baking, Uncategorized. 19 comments.

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.

Lamingtons

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.

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.

Easy Peasy Oriental Style Salmon Fillets

Only 4 days until Christmas, and it is all starting to get a bit hectic in my house.  Don’t think I have been to bed before midnight this last week, but finally the mince pies are made and the presents are wrapped.  Can’t help wondering if I have forgotten something though.  It worries me that in my haste to perfect things down the smallest detail that I will have forgotten something major. It only occurred to me not so long ago that my guests are staying for more than Christmas day and so will also need feeding in addition to their Christmas dinner!  The challenge here has been to think of things that are quick and easy but also keeps up the ‘domestic goddess’ appearance!  I also like to cook a meal at some point over this time that is fairly light and not as calorific as all the other foods typically eaten at Christmas.  I always end up craving a bit of green veg, just to make me feel a bit more normal.  This is particularly the case this year with all my baking in recent weeks.  Every time I get a glass out of the cupboard the mince pies on sitting beautifully on a plate on the side shout my name, and when I open the fridge the ‘spare’ truffles look longingly at me.  What is a girl to do??

This recipe is perfect for Christmas eve, and ticks all the ‘boxes’ I mentioned above.  You can prepare the salmon earlier in the day to marinate, and then at dinner time just pop them in the oven, get your rice coking and don’t forget the steam a bit of green veg to go with it!  It is a recipe which I have been doing for years and is totally my own creation.  I just tried a bit of this and a bit of that, and over time I think it has really become perfected.  This is a great time to share it with you.

What you will need:

  • 1 salmon fillet for each person eating
  • Basmati rice
  • Green veg
  • Foil to wrap parcel up each salmon fillet

For each salmon fillet add to following to make marinade:

  • 2 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp teriyaki sauce
  • 1tsp tamari sauce
  • 1 tsp runny honey
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • Sprinkle of  fresh coriander
  • Sprinkle of fresh ginger chopped
  • Sprinkle of dried chilli flakes

How to make:

  1. Place each fillet of salmon on a piece of foil large enough to cover it and seal together at the top.  Wrap the foil around the salmon but don’t seal together so that the salmon is still exposed
  2. Add all the marinade ingredients onto the salmon and seal the foil together.  Put in the fridge for at least an hour, if not more
  3. When you are ready to cook, heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4 and bake for 20 mins
  4. Whilst the salmon is cooking, prepare your rice and vegetables
  5. Take salmon out of oven and carefully out of foil wrapper.  Serve with rice and vegetables and pour the juice over the salmon, (this is one of the best bits especially when mixed with a bit of rice)

All that is left for me to say is I hope you enjoy your baking, thanks for your support, and I wish you all a fabulous Christmas! I’ll be back in the new year🙂

20/12/2011. Tags: , , , , , , , , . Christmas baking, Savory Baking, Uncategorized. 3 comments.

Baking and beyond!

Well, the first thing that I want to say is that I am a bit excited about this blog.  That may sound a bit indulgent as it is mostly about myself and what I get up to, but it is excitement more about the fact that I can share and document all the creative ideas I have, and the results of my work.   The bonus is that some of you might get inspired (you never know) and try out one of my recipes or attempt a homemade project that I have shared and it might just make your day that you did.

You may know that I have three young children so involvement of little ones tends to happen quite a lot with the things I do.  I’m hoping this will mostly be a good thing, as being creative with my kids doubles the fun in my eyes.  There are however, times when I really enjoy doing stuff on my own.  Baking can be one of these things, especially when I am trying out something new or a bit challenging.  I see it as ‘me’ time!  I have recently started to try my hand at pastry, macaroons, and bread to name a few.  Every night this week my husband has come home to find me baking something new.  Lucky him I say!  Using my creative streak (which is always longing to be used) keeps me happy and if I can teach myself some new skills along the way, all the better! Plus he gets to taste all of my creations!  I’ve got a few ideas for a homemade Christmas as well.  Will add these to my blog in the next few weeks.

I’m planning to blog about once a week, and I would love to hear what you think or want more or less of.  So get stuck in and enjoy.

X

10/10/2011. Uncategorized. 6 comments.

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