Butterfly Buns

butterfly buns

This weekend I made a decision to bake.  Partly because I have fond memories of winter weekend baking afternoons and partly because the wee boy is quite keen to make a rainbow cake – having watched a youTube video of it endless times – so feel I’d better get the practise in before attempting said cake.  I have until February half term, which is when I have promised we will try it.

Meanwhile, I am still coming to terms with my ‘new to me’ oven.  It seems that I have not quite mastered the time needed to warm an electric oven before putting in the food to be cooked, and am still over compensating.  As a result edges are often cooked way before the middle has time to readjust itself to the heat, which can create surprising results.

For example, I recently cooked some roast white and sweet potatoes together and was taken aback when I popped my head in to have a look only to notice that the sweet potatoes had almost turned to charcoal.  Undeterred I turned them over, kept a closer eye on them and, when serving, muttered something about being well done but probably edible.  Imagine my surprise then, when they actually tasted delicious.

Similarly with mini cakes, I have not yet mastered the art of creating a mini cake that is happy to be peeled out of it’s case.  The attempts I have made so far have all resulted in the cake clinging onto the case for dear life.  However, not to be beaten, this time I resolved to create a distraction by turning the mini cakes into butterfly buns.  After all, who focuses on buncase separation anxiety when there’s a glorious buttercream to devour?  And of course, as we eat with our eyes first and foremost, creating a butterfly bun means that any flaws can be covered with a light dusting of icing sugar… but shhh, let’s keep that little gem between ourselves shall we…?

Butterfly buns aside, there are still a few truly simple but wondrous things in life that genuinely make me tingle inside, one of which is watching that first snowfall of the year.  Yesterday, as the wee boy and I gazed out of the window at the silent white blanket covering the earth around us, he turned to me and whispered,

‘This is the most incredible thing ever’

Magical.

 

 

 

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Car Biscuits

car biscuits #2

As those of you who read regularly will know, once a week the wee boy and I have our ‘me and you’ day.  Sometimes these days are filled with places to go and people to meet.  Other times they are less busy which affords us the pleasure of doing something we both enjoy.  Baking.  So, by popular request, today we made car biscuits.

There is nothing special about these biscuits other than they are made together, over time and with love.

For those of you who may have the slightest interest, they are in fact, shortbread biscuits.  250g butter, 88g castor sugar, 275g plain flour and 25g semolina.  The semolina is not a necessity needed to make shortbread, but in my experience it gives that extra ‘shortness’ to the biscuit which I find irresistible.  You may, on the other hand, not enjoy such a ‘short’ biscuit in which case just replace the semolina with plain flour.

Mix butter and sugar together but don’t over cream.  Add the flour and semolina until the whole thing starts to chase itself around the bowl and become one.  Roll out on a floured surface until the mixture is half a centimetre or so thick.  Cut out and place on a butter and floured baking tray.  Prick the biscuits to stop them from rising.  Bake in a warmed oven, gas mark 3 until they look ready.

Take off the baking tray and place on a cooling rack.  Dip into melted chocolate.  Leave to cool.

The wee one has not, until recently, been that interested in using shapes to cut out but was quite insistent that we made cars from a cutter he had found in one of those ‘chuck everything in and put the lid on’ boxes.  And then there was the chocolate. We had actually bought some chocolate buttons from a stall in the market, but sadly they disappeared, slowly but surely, until we weren’t left with enough to dip a cornflake in, so ended up buying a cheap bar from somewhere else and just melting it.

Obviously with the amount of ‘quality control’ that was needed throughout the process, we were not able to dip all the cars into the chocolate, however, it’s quite nice to have a mixture.

Meanwhile the delights of stirring, adding, scooping and cutting have been glorious.

And the biscuits?

Delicious, though I say so myself.

Love Buns

love buns

Today the wee boy declared he would like to bake.  Very specifically, he would like to bake a chocolate cake.  That is, until I produced from the cupboard that houses all cooking and baking vessels, a silicone mold for baking love buns.

At this point, the wee one whelped with delight and, although having been adamant he wished to bake a cake, changed his allegiance with great haste and plumped for the love bun option.

An excellent choice, I might add.

So we measured and tasted, tasted and measured, then tasted a little more whilst scooping varying amounts into each allotted compartment, tasting for one last time before eventually managing to get a tray of them into the oven.  Remembering to slip a baking tray underneath the love bun mold, as I have made that mistake before.

*awards self ‘good memory’ medal*

Twenty minutes later, the little wonders came out of the oven and the wee one sat and watched with pride, as they cooled.

Well, to be fair, he probably watched them for a good minute before flying off to defeat something or other, regularly coming back to check whether they had, indeed, cooled enough.  To quality control one final time, before allowing me the honour of icing them.

There’s nothing like the taste of a home made bun.  Especially one made with so much love.

Carrot Cake

carrot cake

This is the cake that brought me back to baking.

In my very early days, my friend Monica and I would always enjoy baking.  Guided by our mothers, encouraged by our fathers and emboldened by our sisters.

However, when I flew the nest my attention was diverted to something completely different and all consuming, so for years I didn’t bake a thing.  Actually, I very rarely ate a cake until I moved back up North, where tea and cake are as important as air and water.  Well, nearly.

It was only then that I realised what I had been missing, but still, I may have partaken, but didn’t create.

That is, until I decided to make a carrot cake.

In my opinion there are waves of zeitgeist cakes.  We are just coming out of a ‘cupcake’ phenomenon.  Having danced merrily around the ‘tiffin’ (please, I know, it’s awful but some people insist on using it) or ‘rocky road’ explosion.  But prior to all that, there was the entrance of the carrot cake.

Now obviously people have been putting vegetables into cakes for millennia, but the re-emergence of the coffee shop and it’s nibbles, created the perfect waters for the carrot cake to sail on, which it duly did until it was everywhere you would expect it to be.

Circumstances developed which put me in a position of needing to hold a formal (ish) party, and it was these circumstances that encouraged me to reignite my passion.  So I delved into the internet and began researching carrot cake.

As a consequence, I have my favourite carrot cake recipe now safely written in an old recipe book which was my mother’s, and yesterday, I made the cake for another very special woman in mine and my family’s life.  My mother-in-law.

This is what you’ll need:

12oz carrots – grated, 2oz pecans – chopped

Put all the following into a bowl:

4oz wholemeal self raising flour and 4oz wholemeal plain flour, 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg, I teaspoon bicarbonate of soda.

Then you’ll need:

8floz vegetable oil, 6oz light soft brown sugar, 4 eggs, 2 tablespoons golden syrup.  Whisk all these together.

Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, then add the carrot and pecans.  Stir and pop into a prepared tin for 1 hour, gas mark 3.

Cool.

Now here’s a thing.  Our lovely friends across the pond have something called a frosting which is a buttercream icing with added cream cheese.  And here’s where you need to be careful.  If you buy a cream cheese which is the shop’s own brand, you may find that it is not as thick as a better known brand and will, therefore, make the frosting runny.

And I know this because I keep making the same mistake.

With that in mind you will need:

7oz cream cheese, 2os softened butter, 2oz icing sugar and a flavour.  I use vanilla extract, but lemon or orange juice would be just as delicious.

Mix it up and plonk on top of the cake.

It is mighty fine, and I have to say, well worth making for the ones you love.

Chocolate Slices

photo (80)

Now these, for any of you who have not had the pleasure, are probably the most delicious tasting pieces of chocolate perfection you will eat in a long while.  More-ish doesn’t even come close, although I must point out that although they do leave you wanting more, if you have more you do begin to feel slightly queasy as the palette can only deal with so much sugar in one sitting.

The recipe, passed down from my mother, has absolutely everything in it you would desire if you have a sweet tooth, or any propensity to be satisfied by the delights of sugary delicacies.   A sweet, chocolate, chewy something, it is the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea, or as someone said to me this weekend, Guinness. No, I don’t see it either, but I like to believe that I will always respect a persons point of view, and them being able to express it.

As a sideline, a gentleman came up to us this weekend and asked if he could have his face painted as a lion.  He then shared his secret with us.  He was actually a wolf. Now I have to admit that on the outside he didn’t look anything like a wolf, but he obviously felt it on the inside, and who am I to argue?

Back to the slices.  It has come to my attention over the last few years that this type of food has become more popularly referred to as Tiffin.  And indeed, according to some sources, it has all the properties of a ‘Fridge Cake’ barring the raisins.  Biscuits, sugar, syrup etc covered in chocolate.  This usage of the word Tiffin originated in Troon, Scotland during the 1900’s, as did my mother give or take a bit of geography.

However, I know Tiffin as an Indian English word meaning light lunch or afternoon tea.  It is served in the most beautifully designed tiered round metal boxes, which interlink and lock together allowing both the main course and dessert to be sold in one object.  Perfect for train journeys or picnics.  The sweet slabs I make, although great for a picnic, do not have this diversity, and therefore are known as chocolate slices.  That is what they are called in the recipe book and that is what I’m most comfortable with.

And this brings me to the recipe itself.

Melt sugar, syrup, butter, and cocoa powder in a pan on a low heat until everything has combined and is silky smooth.  Take off the heat.  Add the crushed digestive biscuits, mix until they have all been coated in the chocolate sauce and spread out evenly into a dish.  Pour the melted chocolate over the biscuit base and leave to set.

Whilst these are setting phone, text, facebook, tweet or send a letter to friends or family and arrange a rendezvous.  Why?  Well, I am a total advocate of the best foods should be shared philosophy.  Therefore, once set, cut the large slab of chocolate perfection into moderately sized slices, pop in a tin and take round to friends or family.  Put the kettle on, drink a cuppa and indulge yourselves in a little slice of heaven.

I took my chocolate slices to Leeds West Indian Carnival this weekend to sell on a little stall my friends and I have.  Despite the deeply inclement weather, everyone who tasted the chocolate slice went away with a smile on their face.  And that’s ratification enough for me.

Oh, and just to let you know, there is one ingredient I have left out, but then all family recipes have a secret something don’t they?

Carnival preperation

photo (77)

A couple of friends and I have a small venture going on.  I say small because we only do it once a year and in fact have only done it once, last year.  However, I have to say we were quite successful so made a collective decision to do it again this year.

What could it be?  I hear you say.  Well, we are doing a small stall of cakes, sweets, juices and face painting at the Leeds West Indian Carnival over the bank holiday.  And this year we’re doing both days.

*Leaves slight pause for you to be impressed*

As always with these small ventures there is planning and pontification that goes into it way before the event draws nigh, which we have duly done, convincing ourselves that whatever the weather may hold, we will have a ball.

Now that we are less than a week away, the buying and baking is looming over us. So today saw myself, the wee boy, and Charlotte taking the brave step to Costco.

For those of you who don’t know, Costco is a huge expanse of space dedicated to the largest array of things to buy in bulk.  A little like a French Hypermarket, although to be honest, I am unsure as to it’s title as we always refer to it as Costco.  Within these walls lies the largest array of stuff you never realised you may be impressed by, making it extremely easy to get completely sucked in to the ‘buy in bulk’ philosophy.

This time though, we resist and instead just collect the large portions of things we will need to made humongously large amounts of chocolate items.

Having decided our trolley has everything in it we require, we diligently follow the herd to the checkout and watch as things are beeped through.

Now this is the thing with bulk buying at a cost effective building; it is very easy to be in almost total denial about the overall cost, as your focus is on the cost effectiveness of one.  Therefore, when the total amount presented to us by the smiling, if not slightly weary looking cashier, came up, Charlotte and I both swayed momentarily, trying to keep upright and unflustered whilst trembling under the enormity of it all.

We very quickly regained our composure and paid for our goods.  The wonderful thing about being part of a new venture with others is that you can very quickly smooth the lines of panic, reminding yourselves that it is an investment.  Which is lucky, as, had I been on my own I think I may have had an apoplectic fit.

Moving on, we had a couple more errands to achieve over the next few hours.  Which we have accomplished.

Meanwhile the wee boy’s raison d’etre today was to buy a fly swatter.  We can now tick that off the list as well.

All we need to do now is bake.  And bake.  And bake.

If you need me at all over the next few days, I’ll be in the kitchen…

 

 

Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies

photo (69)

I have never been very successful at making cookies.  I can do shortbread, and something called Tom Thumb biscuits, both of which I’m sure will appear on this blog at some point.  But in terms of the cookie style biscuit, I have to admit to being rather pants.

However, that has never stopped me from trying to conquer this anomaly every now and again.  I say anomaly because it seems strange to me that something with ingredients so close to a cake can turn out so obviously wrong.  Indeed there have been many occasions when those nearest and dearest who are great lovers of almost any type of biscuit, have had to decline the offer of another one of my home made attempts.

And this is in spite of Delia and the gang telling me how easy they are to make, and that I will never buy shop bought again.

Accepting that every failure is a form of success, lesson learnt and all the rest of it, I have been thinking about trying one of Nigellas stalwart no nonsense, always come good cookie recipes for a while now, and inspired by a friend I recently visited who had made them to perfection, I found myself with a window of opportunity today, so have opened it.

All ingredients bought, I prepare to attempt the triple chocolate cookie.

So, everything is going extremely well, and despite juggling with requests for hot chocolate, and a sink full of washing up which I really should have dealt with beforehand, I’m feeling pretty organised, until a very strange thing occurs.  The recipe says to add 75g of soft brown sugar to the butter, and then 50g of white sugar.  In my attempts to be super organised, I have dedicated a bowl for each element and found spaces for them in the chaos of my limited work space, the majority of which has been taken up by the aforementioned non accomplished washing up.

As a consequence, I add the sugar to a bowl which in my mind has the soft brown and butter lounging within it.  But the weighing scales tell me differently.  So I spend the next five minutes or so fishing out white sugar from a bowl, desperately trying not to remove any of the soft brown sugar.  It is then that I decide to investigate further, lift the bowl closer to me to discover there is absolutely no sign of the soft brown.  Which is when I realise that I put the white sugar into the bowl with the dark chocolate which is waiting to be melted.

Funny how the brain can convince you of something that just isn’t true.

Anyway, that miniature hiccup over I continue, with the occasional help from my beautiful assistant, to put everything together and place onto the prepared tray with an ice cream scoop.  Yes I sniggered too, but y’know, it does work.

Nigella says give it 18 minutes, but I leave it at least 25 as I need to figure in the temperamental oven and the back door being opened for some of the time, before checking to see the dough section has baked.  And indeed it has.  On every single one of the cookies.  Which for me, is almost unheard of.

In fact, I would say these are the most successful cookies I have ever made.

*Takes a bow*