Sunday, 27 February 2011

A little giveaway treat to launch my blog

I want to celebrate the launch of my blog, and why ever not?  I want to share the pleasure baking gives me with others and sharing my cakes gives me pleasure. (the fact that I need to practice my cake decorating skills for a very important wedding coming up and will have lots of cakes trials is another matter!)

Its quite commonplace when you follow food blogs to see the occasional giveaway or post with a prize or incentive attached, a lot of these are sponsored by companies, its simply a way of marketing products. My blog is not of that ilk but I want to mark its launch with a treat for my (new) readers, and you never know I might even get a new follower or two along the way?

As most of my followers are facebook 'friends' (or maybe friends of facebook friends, yes your friends/family can enter too if they want to!) and I know who you are, you all live relatively close to me, or I know you through my work;  I've come up with my own giveaway to launch my blog proper like!

So here's the launch giveaway...

12 fresh homemade scrummy cupcakes (made by yours truly who else?).
There will be a choice of cake flavours to choose from...
Red Velvet
With a frosting or icing to match...I'll discuss cake options and collection times etc with the winner.

If you win you will have the chance to share 12 gorgeous cupcakes with friends/family/colleagues, the dog or even keep them all to yourself!
How do I enter?
You can enter by leaving a comment after this post...just saying I love homemade cakes (you can say more about this blog if you choose to but its not compulsory).
(To comment; go to bottom of this post and put your cursor over 'comments' and click...
This will bring a white comment box to put a comment in.
At bottom of box 'comment as' brings drop down list...if all else fails choose 'anonymous').
If your post is anonymous just make sure I can identify you in some way.
See its really simple!

My Rules
1. This giveaway is only open to residents of the UK and you must be able to collect the cakes from me....(sorry folks, but these cakes won't travel well or stay baked fresh otherwise).
2. One entry per person, multiple entries will not be counted.
3. A winner will be chosen at random from the entries received after closing at 1pm next Sunday 6th March 2011 and announced on this blog on the same day.
(N.B. If you're names 'Wilf', you can't enter as you are on a pre holiday/wedding diet!)

The winner will be picked at random using a web based, random number, picking gadget, thingy majigg.

Good luck to everyone!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

How did you learn how to bake/cook?

Say hello to Edith...mother of 4, grandmother of 1 (+3), great grandmother of 0 (+3)...and my mum x

Have been trying to think back a bit and trying to understand how I know how to bake and cook?  I'm not a chef or have never trained as one and have never gone to formal cooking/baking or cake decorating classes as an adult.

I know I had learned how to cook quite early on as I was preparing elements of  meals for all the family as a young teenager, and then I took 'cookery' at secondary school as a subject. Don't think the cookery lessons taught me much except how to make shepherds pie though.

I think I learnt a lot of what I know from simply watching my mum over the years and she has confirmed she didn't ever teach me to cook.

My mother baked when we were growing up...she has since joined the "won't cook, I let Marks and Spencer's cook for me instead" and "I'm a lady who lunches" brigade now (good for her, about time too!). I suppose when we were growing up she had to bake, she had four growing kids (five if you include my dad!) and that was the way you kept your family well fed.

Some of my earliest baking recollections were of my mother (she'll laugh at this!) putting margarine (would have been stork block margarine back then) and sugar in a bowl in front of the (coal) fire to warm up and soften, prior to creaming them with a wooden spoon.  She will have been making the 'infamous' walnut cake at the time. Yes there was no central heating, or popping in the microwave for a few seconds, or a kitchen aid mixer to do all the hard work it was all down to wrist power.

I can also remember a big cookery book she was margarine and flour stained, with pages loose and brown with age, it had every recipe you could think of and guidance on every technique you would need, from butchering a lamb to making and icing a two tier fruit wedding cake. I must have studied that book a lot, as I can still remember pages from it now. I think she had bought it new from a 'traveling salesman' for quite a few shillings at the time. I wish I still had that book, it had tales to tell.

From memory my mothers 'specialities' were:
Walnut loaf cake (iced)...legendary...I must try to make this from memory one day soon, here's roughly how it would have looked...
Egg Custard tarts (no nutmeg on them though as that was a foreign spice, only for posh people)
Mince pies (only at Christmas)
Scotch pancakes
Chelsea Buns
Sausage rolls
Jam puffs (like so but without the garnish)...not my puff...and not my picture this is taken from Google images as a representation.


I can't recall her making much in the line of pastry as I'm sure she has said she isn't 'good at pastry', hence the sausage rolls and jam puffs, which were made with shop bought puff pastry, still lovely though.

Over the years I think I have repaid the 'debt of gratitude' for all the lovely meals and baking...we've had one or two birthday events for my mum over the years where afternoon tea (my favourite meal ever) has been the order of the day.

I think the moral of this little story is quite simple, your kids are watching what you do and are taking it all in, let them get involved all the way along...they are learning life long skills all the time and carrying on family traditions...

AND I really must make my mum a HOMEMADE birthday cake one of these birthdays!

With thanks to my mum x

Saturday, 19 February 2011

The BEST Chocolate & Caramel Brownies EVER! - recipe

I found this recipe on a blog called MADE WITH PINK.

Its a fantastic brownie recipe and it lives up to the claim of being the best ever. Whenever I have made this everyone who has tried it has loved it, wanted more (and more!) and agreed it really is the best! 

You won't be disappointed if you try this and its really easy to do, no gadgets needed...and if you buy a tin of dulce de leche you really have enough for 2 batches.  You will want to make 2 batches as the first won't last long at all.

Serve this as a dessert to impress guests with fresh raspberries...crushed hazelnuts in warm melted unsalted butter as a glaze; and/or with ice cream.

57g butter
2 dark chocolate squares (I use Bournville)
48g cocoa powder
100g white sugar
100g  brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt
65g SR flour
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 eggs
1/2 tin dulce de leche
caramel or toffee dessert topping
1) Preheat oven to 350ºF (175ºC) and grease an 8x8 (20cm x 20cm) square baking pan.
2) Melt the butter in a metal or glass bowl that is placed over a pot of boiling water to create a double boiler.  Once the butter is melted stir in the chocolate squares until they are melted and combined into the butter mixture. OR melt the butter and chocolate VERY SLOWLY in a pan on a low light, stir to melt.
3)  Stir the cocoa powder, both sugars, salt, flour and vanilla into the melted butter and chocolate until combined.  Stir in the eggs with a spoon or spatula - try not to use more than 30 or 40 strokes.
4)  Pour a little over 1/2 of the brownie batter into the greased pan.  Drop small spoon fulls of the dulce de leche evenly spaced across the the top of the batter.  Lightly drag a knife through the dollops of dulce de leche to create a slight swirl pattern.  Cover with the remaining brownie batter.  

5) Drizzle the caramel or toffee dessert sauce over the top. (I did NOT use this in my version as I felt they were rich enough). 
6)  Bake for 25-30 mins. You may need to adjust the cooking time depending on your oven.  

Let the brownies cool completely before cutting them into squares. 
If you have enough will power, try and leave them over night.  They are even better and more fudgie the next day.

These really are very decadent and really delicious! 

With thanks to MADE WITH PINK.

Thursday, 10 February 2011

Some of my own creations...cakes for Rowan

Any excuse to bake and make something really delicious and that is enjoyed by friends and family and I'm there. I love to make 'special' cakes for birthdays and the like but I have never been to a class or workshop. I suppose I'm self taught. I get ideas from the internet and if I want to know how to do something I browse the web. You Tube is great for ideas and videos that give instructions on how to do things. I love You Tube for that.

Here are some of my more recent baking creations...

A two tier crazy spotty birthday cake for Rowan who was one in January 2011.
The top layer of cake was a chocolate marble cake with chocolate butter cream
Bottom layer of cake was vanilla sponge cake with jam and butter cream 
The animals were not edible and neither was the candle!

Our 5 Girlies supplied the freshest eggs ever...
The chocolate marble cake recipe came from Ruth Clemens Pink Whisk site here...

Its a lovely moist cake and this is the best way to make a proper marbled cake. It has worked well for me and I have made that recipe a few times now, its always good. Ruth has come up with some lovely recipes and everyone of her recipes that I have tried has been a hit.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

My first ever guest blog when testing 100mph rhubarb and cardomom batter cake by Vanessa Kimbell - recipe

My first ever attempt at blogging as a guest for Vanessa Kimbell, testing a recipe for her new book called on...

I'm not sure how I came across Vanessa Kimbell on Twitter, but a soon as I found her my curiosity was grabbed by her blog and the recipes she has devised. She seems to put together a really intriguing mix of ingredients, you know the type of things some of which you would never think would 'go well together' but when put in a recipe sounds (and looks) utterly scrummy?

I think I was also struck by the new years resolutions she has, particularly as all but one were the same as on my list for this year,  freaky!

Anyway, despite not meeting the criteria of being a food blogger, I offered, was asked and agreed to test the '100mph Rhubarb & Cardamom Batter Cake' recipe for Vanessa, this recipe will appear in her new book 'Prepped' out in June.

The beauty of all the recipes in this new book is that they sort of cross over from one into another,  so you make one recipe, and it has elements that can be used in another. Multi tasking and time saving cooking with added benefits I call it! An interesting twist.

A further interesting twist is this is my very first attempt at blogging, albeit as a guest. Other more experienced and proficient foodie bloggers are also trialling and reporting back on the recipes, I have seen the results of a number of these and they sound and look really nice, the chocolate ones look particularly amazing.

This recipe, originally from Vanessa's mum, goes like this:

100mp Rhubarb & Cardamom Batter Cake Printable Recipe

230g self-raising flour
1 pinch of salt
50ml rapeseed oil
50g Cardamom sugar
220ml whole milk
1 egg
120g rhubarb, chopped
For the topping
4 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon or ginger powder
75g chopped walnuts

Thanks to our girlies (our 5 adopted ex battery hens) for the fresh eggs! There will be more about the girlies soon.

1 Preheat the oven to 175˚C/gas mark 4.
2 Put the flour, salt, oil, sugar, milk and egg into a bowl and mix well.
3 Put the ingredients for the topping into a jam jar and shake well.
4 Pour the batter into a low, wide greased baking tin. Top with the chopped rhubarb.
5 Sprinkle the topping from jar evenly over the top and bake in the oven for 18–20 minutes.

Suggestions from the draft 'Prepped' book to go with this and as an alternative...
Serve it straight from the oven with Cardamom Custard (see page xxx) for pudding
Swap the plain sugar for Vanilla Sugar (page xxx) and use 3 small chopped cooking apples instead of rhubarb to make a vanilla and apple batter cake.
Use pears or plums instead of rhubarb to make a cardamom and pear (or plum) batter cake

I did not have cardamom sugar to hand so I crushed open a couple of pods, discarded the husks, ground the seeds (in a pestal and mortar) and added this to 50g of brown caster sugar.

But you can easily make a jar of cardamon sugar by putting a hand full of cardamom pods and a bag of sugar in a sealed jar - leave for 4 weeks to infuse. Then you always have it on hand to add to coffee, cakes, custards and the like.

I actually made this twice as I had enough fresh rhubarb for two goes, I timed myself the second time round and it took me 12 minutes to make from scratch and that included chopping the rhubarb. Now that's a quick and delicious cake/pudding, and there was hardly any clearing up. I think this is the quickest thing I ever made.

We loved it and had it cold after lunch, there's something about the batter flavour of this cake that makes it stand out for me. We will have more later as a pudding with custard, I am testing the second one I made on colleagues at work tomorrow, lucky them!