Exercise is bad for you and baking isn’t. Fact.

In a desperate/enthusiastic attempt to get fit and tone up a little I decided to employ the services of my school’s PE teacher to help me to get fit and toned over the summer. I actually quite enjoy exercise, and I love going for walks and swimming but recently I’ve lost my enthusiasm to do these things. So paying someone to help me is the next best thing – plus he’s very good and knows what he’s doing!

Unfortunately, after my first session yesterday I now can’t walk up or down the stairs or sit down without it hurting. Yay for exercise! I decided to bake instead and my new victims were my husband’s new colleagues and my friend for her birthday. I decided on peanut butter cupcakes. I had to use a range of websites to convert from cups to grams and instead of buttermilk I added milk and then as I didn’t have peanut butter cups I used a chunk of dark chocolate and as splodge of peanut butter. For the frosting I mixed a tablespoon of reduced fat peanut butter with icing sugar and a splash of milk until it reached the required consistency. I then decorated with dinosaur sprinkles.

These were very sticky and didn’t feel too naughty!

A great Good Friday

Happy Good Friday! I hope everyone’s had a good one. The weather here has been pretty good which always makes me feel more productive.

My friend Holly came over today and we got our Easter bake on. I’d been meaning to make the cinnamon breakfast loaf since Monday, but a lack of eggs had prevented this…until today!

The following recipe comes forms The Great British Bake Off How to Turn Everyday Bakes into Showstoppers
Ingredients
500g strong white bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons crushed sea salt flakes
2 tablespoons caster sugar
7g of fresh yeast or 15g dried yeast
125ml milk
50g butter
1 large, room temperature egg
125ml water

For the filling
50g caster sugar
1 teaspoon plain or bread flour
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

The how to
1) Mix the flour, salt and sugar and then add the yeast according to the instructions (if dry) or with 7 tablespoons of milk if fresh.
2) Warm the milk with the water and the butter until the butter is melted.
3) Add the egg and beat with a fork.
4) Add to the flour mixture and work together with your hands.
5) Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes before leaving in a warm place, covered with cling film, for 1 hour.
6) Place baking parchment into the tin whilst waiting for the dough to increase in size.
7) Get the dough and punch it down before rolling it into a rectangle about 2cm thick and as wide as the length of the tin.
8) Brush the dough liberally with milk and sprinkle with the cinnamon mixture.
9) Roll up the dough and then pinch the seams together and place in the tin ensuring there are now open ends.
10) Place the tin with the dough into a bag and tie the ends, leave some air inside the bag and then place somewhere warm.
11) After about an hour, brush with more milk and bake at 180 for 35 minutes until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
12) Leave to cool and then serve toasted, as it is or with a little butter.
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The ingredients.

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Sieving the flour.

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About to knead the dough.

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Holly with our well kneaded dough.

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Cinnamon and milk.

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Into the tin.

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After the second rising.

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Just out of the oven.

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The inside.

We also made Creme Egg flapjacks using the following recipe Creme Egg Flapjacks

We used 10 large Creme Eggs and scooped the fondant out and spread it over the top of the cooled flapjack before pouring over the melted ‘shells’ of the Creme Eggs.

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The flapjack mixture.

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Just out of the oven.

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Scooping out the fondant.

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Spreading the fondant after about 10 seconds in the microwave to make it easier to spread.

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The finished product.

Have a very happy Easter weekend.

I get by with a little help from my friends.

Wow! What a week! Just when things were plodding along quite nicely, something whips in and mixes it all up. I have a feeling though that things are just going to keep on getting better.

The cake below has been made for my good friend Kirsty’s husband. It’s my basic sponge cake recipe so see previous blog posts for this.

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As a Liverpool fan it hurt emotionally to make it…but I am pleased with the outcome especially as I made it whilst watching Liverpool beat Arsenal.

I just want to finish by saying a big thank-you to Chris, Tom, Jo, Becki, Trisha, Kirsty, Mandy, Hanny, Helen & Bec for listening (or sending me lovely cheering up cards) this past week. Greatly appreciated!

“Never, ever, ever give up.” Winston Churchill

The title of today’s blog post is one of my favourite Churchill quotes and is pretty relevant to me at the moment. Not necassarily for negative reasons either…you’ll have to watch this space!

Today I woke up in the mood to bake so I donned my fab ‘Star Baker’ apron (a Birthday pressie from 2 of my favourite people: Trish & Becki)…

Got my sous chef (the hubby) at the ready and started to concoct.

The recipe which follows is the result of finding 4 very ripe bananas in the fruit bowl.

Ingredients
4 ripe bananas
210g light muscavaso sugar
210g Stork cooking margerine
210g self raising flour
4 eggs (mine weighed 210g)
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon of ginger ale
1 tablespoon of milk

The how to bit
1) Begin by cutting the bananas into thin slices.
2) Turn the oven on at 180°c (turn it down to 160°c when you put the cake in).
3) Cream the butter & sugar together until smooth.
4) Add the nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger & baking powder and stir until combined.
5) In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and then add the ginger ale.
6) Mix in the flour and egg mixture a little at a time until all the ingredients are mixed in.
7) Stir in the bananas (leaving roughly 10 slices for later) and milk.
8) Finally pour the mixture into a loaf tin and bake at 160°c for roughly 1 hour 20 minutes but keep checking it with a skewer to ensure it’s cooked all the way through (the skewer should come out clean). I had to turn it down to 140°c for the last 20 minutes to make sure it cooked in the middle.
9) When cold, decorate with a mascarpone frosting and the leftover banana slices.

Possible ingredients!

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The chopped bananas and my ace ‘Star Baker’ notepad (a Christmas gift) with my jottings.
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The butter mixture.
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The ‘wet’ mixture.
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The finished product which tastes pretty darn good! It’s light, fluffy & tastes just gingery & banana-ery enough.

Have a very happy Saturday! I’m looking forward to a red wine, chocolate & trashy tv evening with my lovely little sister.

It’s a new day, it’s a new dawn & I’m feeling pretty good.

What a busy few weeks it’s been! I’m sitting in my comfy armchair in my kitchen, sipping coffee, looking out the French windows & blogging. As I’m sure with many of you, sometimes it feels like I just don’t stop or know when to.

This weekend I’ve gone baking mad. I’ve managed to make 10 breakfast muffins, 6 cheesy bread rolls, beef casserole and I currently have a lemon cake baking. Phew!

One of my oldest, and closest, friends moved to Brussels just over a year ago and with our busy lives and the distance keeping in touch can be tricky. The best thing about her though is when she comes back we always make a point of getting together for brunch. Yesterday on such an occassion it was her turn to come to me. Following this (frankly the best savoury muffin recipe I have found so far) Cheddar and Bacon Muffins

I didn’t have any yogurt so I used 50ml more of milk and added 1/3 of a tin (415g) of baked beans. I also added a chopped mushroom to half of the batch too.
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The mixture. The turmeric and mustard powder gave it a lovely yellowy colour.
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The ones with mushroom in had a slice of mushroom on top to prevent my husband eating one by mistake! He HATES mushrooms.
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The finished muffins! Bec, who was very reluctant at first, had two so they must have been good!

I also finally got round to using my Paul Hollywood How to Bake book that I recieved on my last birthday.

I had found some yeast languishing in the cupboard and having the time and the inclination I decided to go for it!

The recipe I followed was for Bacon and Cheddar Loaves

Ingredients
400g strong white bread flour (plus some for dusting)
100g strong wholemeal flour (I only had wholemeal flour but it still worked)
10g salt
10g instant yeast
30g unsalted, softened butter
330ml cool water (I used a little more)

For the filling
Olive oil
8 rashers of bacon (I left this out)
150g grated cheddar

The how to
1) Tip the flours in a bowl and add the salt to one side and the yeast to the other.
2) Add the butter and 3/4 of tge water and turn with your fingers, continuing to add the water a little at a time.
3) Keep going until the mixture ‘cleans’ the inside of the bowl.
4) Tip the dough onto a floured surface and kneas for around 10 minutes until the dough feels soft and forms a smooth skin and form a ball.
5) Place it in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a tea towel in a warm place for 1 hour at least until the dough has doubled in size.
6) If you’re using bacon then cook it and leave to cool.
7) Once the dough has risen, add the bacon and cheese and knead it in ensuring it is evenly distributed.
8) Line baking trays (depending on the size you make them will depend on how many you use) and form the dough. Slash the top of each loaf/roll and prove for another hour.
9) Once your dough has doubled and springs back lightly to the touch, then sprinkle with olive oil and bake for around 20 minutes.

We served ours with Covent Garden, Pulled Pork soup.
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Perfect!

Finally, this morning I was woken by our cat Susie at 6 o'clock. Unfortunately once I'm awake that's generally how I stay so at 7:08 this morning I was downstairs making lemon cake for my friend Hanny who's expecting and craving lemons.

I've had my Everyday Cakes and Cookies book from The Australian Women’s Weekly company for years and I’ve used it on and off in that time. The recipe I followed this morning was for the Double Lemon Loaf and has been amended slightly.

Ingredients
90g of chopped butter
2 lemon zests
110g caster sugar
2 eggs
260g self raising flour
Juice of 2 lemons
180ml milk
2 tablespoons of lemon curd (I used the leftover curd from my angel food cake)

The how to
1) Preheat the oven to 160°c and cream the butter and sugar together.
2) Mix the milk, zest, juice and eggs and add to the butter mixture along with the flour a bit at a time.
3) Pour half the mixture into the loaf tin, swirl with half of the lemon curd and then add the rest of the mixture and the rest of the lemon curd.
4) Bake for about an hour or until a skewer comes out clean.
5) To decorate dust with icing sugar when the loaf comes out of the oven and I made crystalised lemon slices.
6) For the lemon slices place lemon slices (thinly cut) into boiling water for around a minute. Once softened place in cold water to cool. Bring a cup of water to the boil and stir in a cup of sugar until it is dissolved. Add the lemon slices and simmer for around an hour or until the rinds are see through. Leave to harden and then decorate.
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Hopefully it will make a very pregnant lady happy!

That’s it! I should probably go and get ready now… Happy Sunday!

Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m a gingerbread pumpkin!

Good morning! What a wonderful morning it is as it’s finally half term! However, instead of enjoying the possibility of a lay in, I’ve been up since 6 making gingerbread. This is quite normal for me. As a child my parents would always be up early for work so I’ve inherited this and even as a teen I could never stay asleep past 8 or in bed much past 9 in the morning. It’s a seize the day attitude, once I’m awake then that’s how I stay.

My weekend was the perfect start to a week off. I had a girls night out on Saturday night, dinner and dancing with 3 brilliant friends who I’ve known since I was 11 (the scary part of that is that it means we’ve been friends for 15 years!!) Yesterday was spent recovering and stomping around Leeds Castle, possibly the loveliest castle in the leaves with the h2b and a hot chocolate in hand. We then returned home to carve pumpkins and drink mulled wine whilst watching a scary film which is a Halloween tradition we’ve always had.

I think the h2b’s carving is brilliant:

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Mine was a little OTT:

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Today I’m spending the day with the h2b’s aunt and cousins making pumpkin pie & decorating their house for Halloween and I can’t wait! I will be taking some of my gingerbread pumpkins too for the boys to decorate.

For the gingerbread I followed this recipe from the BBC food website but added a teaspoon of nutmeg as well.

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The recipe made 24 in total and they baked for about 12 minutes. They are a tiny bit soft inside but crispy on the outside. I even have to be a bit big headed now and say that they have exactly the right ginger taste to them. The spice hits instantly and lingers pleasantly. I like to think that Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood would be proud!

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Considering I haven’t made gingerbread for a few years I’m very pleased with the outcome! I’m leaving them all un-decorated so that I can decorate the ones for my drama group with my best friend. As well as gingerbread pumpkins, my best friend and I will also be putting to use the following goodies from Poundland.

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Watch out for another post this week! Happy Monday 🙂

These are a few of my favourite things!

Today has been all about shopping, baking and weddings – 3 of my favourite things!

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts we’re doing our wedding on a budget. We’ve set a budget for every aspect and mostly come out under. One thing I was determined to do myself was the flowers for myself and my bridesmaids. I bought artificial flowers from Dunelm Mill and some lace from Hobbycraft and created my own arrangements. It was a lot of fun!

Here are the finished products;

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I’ve also been busy painting gift boxes for my bridesmaids and mother of the bride/mother of the groom gifts. I’ve had jewellery designed by my friend’s sister which uses elements of our vintage theme. These are the bridesmaid’s boxes as their jewellery is going to be quite bulky.

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The smaller boxes are for the mum’s gifts.

I had another go at macarons today too. I followed the same recipe (Mary Berry’s macarons) but this time I ground the almonds even finer using a pestle and mortar and drew circles on the parchment using a larger sized nozzle.

They turned out a lot bigger but my previous issues seem to have been resolved so next time I just need to focus on the size and making them smaller.

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Before I even started my baking and painting, I visited my favourite shop in West Malling, Fragolina. It’s really a boutique that is hidden away but it’s a treasure trove of all things kitsch. It was their first birthday today and for the first 10 customers who spent over £15 they received a free gift in an awesome canvas bag. I purchased the cute macaron trinket box and the scarf and received a baking book in my gift bag. It couldn’t have been a more perfect start to my day!

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Please check out their website; Fragolina

We’re off out for curry with the h2b’s family so my day will be concluding as perfectly as it started. Happy weekend!