I stayed up until 3am last Sunday morning. GASP!!! For anyone who knows me, this is quite an achievement. I usually get to about 10.30pm on an evening out and start yawning, then by 11pm I’ve firmly got my going home hat on, and that’s it, the night over. But on Saturday I was having such a great time that I forgot about the fact that my children would be waking up in 6 hours…5 hours…4 hours and was happy to keep going. I bet you are all wondering what I was up to. Well, hubby and I, along with 3 other couples have been taking part in our own ‘Come Dine With Me’ dinner parties. Last week we went to CDWM No: 3…and it was brilliant! The theme was ‘The Oscars’ and I just LOVED getting dressed up. Our hosts had even laid out the red carpet for our arrival, and placed a champagne saucer of pink bubbly in our hands as we walked in. I felt famous, just for a split second.
We were actually first to host a couple of months back and decided to have a Mexican themed night. I had no idea that there would be such a market for Mexican style partyware, but I was amazed at the choice. I think my favorite purchase was the inflatable cactus. The only down side being, it has no further use at all! I mean where does one store an inflatable cactus? It looked fab in our dinning room on the night though. The second CDWM had an Olympic theme which had us all dressed up in red, white or blue and taking part in various party games. Such a great night.
These evenings have been really successful so we have agreed that after the last one next month, we are all going out for a meal together over the summer and then we will be starting CDWM season 2 in the autumn. So I’ve got my thinking cap on already for themes, food and entertainment to make our next one even better than our last one.
I want to create my own dessert next time round, (for extra wow factor) so it’s with thanks to the Alphabake challenge hosted by Caroline Makes and Baking Addict and the We Should Cocoa challenge hosted this month by Laura from How to Cook Good Food and organsied by Chocolette that I have come up with a Toblerone style dessert. It contains the required almonds and chocolate for We should Cocoa, and the ‘H’ ingredient is honey for Alphabake.
I have to say that this was a complete experiment right up to the point of the finishing touches. I had imagined in my head that I would cover the cake with a ganache that would make it look more like a triangle of Toblerone, but I ended up with a chocolate sauce so went with that and I think it worked really well. The final dessert had a gorgeous stickiness to it a bit like a sticky toffee pudding, and served with the ice cream, I was in heaven.
Toblerone Inspired Dinner Party Dessert
What you need:
- 125g butter
- 125g caster sugar
- 1 tbsp honey
- 115g self raising flour
- 25g cocoa
- 1 tbsp milk
- 25g toasted flaked almonds (and a few extra for decoration)
- 70g chopped nougat
- 75g milk chocolate
- 100ml double cream
- Medium sized traybake tin (mine was 27cm x 21cm) greased with the bottom lined
- Serves 8 (based on a few people having a second helping)
What to do
- Pre heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4.
- Put butter in a mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until pale and creamy. Add sugar and beat until fully incorporated. Mixture should have a light and fluffy texture
- Gradually add eggs and honey beating after each addition. Sift in flour and cocoa and add milk then fold in with a large metal spoon
- Once the flour and cocoa is almost folded in add the nougat and almonds and gently mix in
- Pour mixture into the traybake tin, and gently smooth down. Pop in the oven for about 20 mins until a knife comes out clean
- Remove cake from the tin and cool on a rack
- Once cool, cut the cake into 6 even squares. Then cut each square diagonally to make 2 triangles. Find a rectangular shaped plate or tray and line up the triangles as in the pictures
- To make the chocolate sauce, melt the chocolate and cream together in a bowl over simmering water. Mix with a spoon to incorporate and drizzle over the cakes
- Use the reserved almonds to decorate the sides of each triangle and serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream
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.
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.
Pancake Day is tomorrow and I cannot wait! I feel the same about it every year, and always wonder why I don’t make pancakes more often? They are hardly any bother and are such a treat to have for dessert. They don’t need much in the way of toppings either as the simple but traditional sprinkle of lemon juice and sugar is often a favourite. Perhaps I like pancakes so much because they remind me of our holidays in France? We go every year and always treat ourselves to a crêpe or two whilst we are there. The smell of cooking pancakes is enough to transport my mind into imagining that I am walking down a little cobbled street in a scenic French village enjoying sunshine on my back and feeling relaxed. This is a great tonic on a dark, wet February evening.
My children love pancakes too. A dollop of nutella and they could not be happier. I normally fill my pancakes with cooked banana, squirty cream and melted chocolate, but this year I wanted to be a little bit more adventurous, and what I have come up with is something that I think tastes pretty yummy indeed, even if I do say so myself! I am actually sitting here writing this blog post completely full up with pancake after eating far more than I thought at the ‘tasting session’. I’ll be making more pancakes on Tuesday as well. Double the amount of pancakes…hmmm writing a food blog definitely has advantages! But I do need to warm you that just one of these pancakes is unlikely to be enough. They are sooo moreish and if you get a little bit artistic with your presentation I think they could be served as an impressive dinner party dessert. Here is what I came up with:
Chocolate and cinnamon pancake filled with fresh blueberries and vanilla cream, drizzled with blueberry coulis and melted chocolate.
Bit of a mouthful, but I would say that is quite literally what it is…a heavenly mouthful! But don’t be put off by the complicated sounding title, this really is very easy to put together and I’ll even make a couple of extra shortcut suggestions as I go along because I know that as a busy mum myself, saving a extra 10 mins at dinner time can make a big difference at bath time, and then bedtime.
Interestingly, the inspiration for these came from the two boxes of blueberries that were sat in my fridge and needed using up. But in hindsight, these little balls of loveliness are a perfect match for a pancake. They are naturally very sweet so do not need much sugar added to them, but they also provide a subtle tang which sets off the warm cinnamon tones, chocolate and cream of beautifully.
What you will need:
- 105g plain flour
- 2 eggs
- 1tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 tsp cocoa powder
- 200ml milk mixed with 75ml water
- 50g unsalted butter melted
Filling and topping
- 250ml whipping cream
- 2 tsp vanilla paste
- 50g melted dark chocolate
- 150g fresh blueberries
- 40ml water
- 2 tbsp of agave/maple syrup
- Icing sugar to dust
How to make:
- In a separate bowl sift in the dry ingredients of the batter mix and whisk with the two eggs. Then slowly add the milk and water mixture whilst continuing to whisk. Finally add in 2 tbsp of the melted butter and keep the rest for the frying pan. Put batter in the fridge to keep cool (cold batter on a hot pan is good) and to allow it to thicken a bit as it stands
- Pour the whipping cream and vanilla paste into a large mixing bowl and whisk until the cream has thickened. Cream should be thick enough to stay attached the whisk when you pull it out of the cream. Put to one side
- Now put 120g of the blueberries in a saucepan with the water and syrup and heat for about 5 mins until the berries start to burst. Blitz in the food processor until smooth. If you want it super smooth you will probably need to sieve it as well, but I did not bother to do this with mine. Put to one side
- Start to slowly melt your chocolate in a bowl over simmering water. Or leave this step out and use a pre-made chocolate sauce (we have a Hershey’s one which is lovely)
- Heat up your frying pan, and when you think it is pretty hot, dab a bit of scrunched up kitchen paper in the remaining melted butter and rub onto the frying pan. Then add a small ladle full of batter to the pan, or a couple of tablespoons. You don’t need too much as pancakes should be thin so that they are cooked though before they start burning. Move the pan in circular motions to spread the batter around. If you use something like the back of the spoon it will most likely catch and create a hole as they start to cook as soon as they are poured on
- After about 2 mins, flip the pancake, (in the air if you are brave enough) and cook for another two mins on the other side
- My advice is to cook a few pancakes and keep the ones you have done on a plate covered in foil. I think you could probably get away with coking 3-4 this way before you should start to make them up and by cooking in batches like this you will save a bit of time rather than cooking, constructing, cooking etc
- When putting together, put a nice thick line of cream down the middle of the pancake, then top with fresh blueberries, wrap over both sides, and drizzle with blueberry coulis and melted chocolate/chocolate sauce. Finally dust with icing sugar and serve straight away
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
- 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
- Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4
- Lightly grease a medium rectangle shaped tin (approx 18cm x 23cm) and line with greaseproof paper
- Mix the eggs together in a large bowl until thick and creamy and then add the sugar and mix until dissolved
- Sieve in the flour and cornflour, then add the water and butter and mix with until smooth
- 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)
- 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.
- 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.
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:
- Pre heat the oven to 180c/350f/gas 4
- 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
- Put half the mixture into a separate bowl. Sieve the cocoa powder into one half and fold in with a large metal spoon
- 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.
- 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.