Summer Baking

It really wouldn’t be a holiday from school without a spot of baking, and with the disappointment of not being ale to finish my dancing hippo, we needed some cake to cheer us up a bit!

We started off with some all-in-one vanilla sponge.  Alice was given a fabulous junior baking set for her birthday, all good quality utensils, not the usual kids plastic stuff.  It’s all silicon and stainless steel, just scaled down a bit for smaller hands – ideal for me too!  So we made some vanilla sponge mix, and made it into a victoria sandwich and 6 cupcakes.  The fun was definitely in the decorating (and licking the bowl).

The kit had an icing set with three different nozzles too, so we had a practice making some rosettes.

After the cake, we moved on to some cookies.  We’ve never really done cookies before, we’ve always stuck to pretty basic butter biscuits, but we fancied a change.  I had a look around the internet and found a couple of recipes that looked simple for us to have a go at.  We started with some peanut butter cookies, which were incredibly simple to make and very tasty too.

We finished with some chocolate chip cookies. This had a few more ingredients, but again it’s pretty simple to follow. We enjoyed making it, and it was great practice for Alice with measuring out. The really great part is not having to roll out a dough and use cutters, just taking a teaspoonful of the mixture and putting it on the baking paper means less washing up and it’s a lot simpler for smaller hands.

Unfortunately I don’t have a picture of the finished cookies, but suffice it to say they tasted delicious and we had plenty to share with family and friends.

Happy baking
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School Holiday Baking

Well it’s been a tough first week or so of the school holidays.  It’s not much fun hobbling around with an equaliser boot when you have an active seven year old wanting to get out and do things.  Fortunately we’ve had some mixed weather here so we’ve had to stay in and concentrate on indoor activities.

I felt quiet good today so decided we could spend some time in the kitchen making some yummy treats to share with friends and family.  So we started with our trusted all-in-one sponge recipe from Delia Smith, to which we added some raisins, chocolate chips, cocoa powder and mini marshmallows.

P1250130We didn’t have any golden syrup or chocolate digestives so we couldn’t make any rocky road tray bake, so these mini cakes made up for it and are our version of a rocky road style muffin!  They certainly tasted chocolatey and went very nicely with a cup of tea.

Wile these were cooling we decided to make some scones and biscuits.  The simple Easter biscuit recipe was brought out and modified slightly as I didn’t have any lemons to zest.  I rolled out the dough a bit thicker than normal, so it made a few less biscuits than usual, but they tasted great straight from the oven and only took nine minutes!

P1250127I thought it would be nice to make some chocolate chip scones too as they didn’t take very long and could be ready to go in the oven by the time the biscuits had baked.  Not a big batch, only eight this time, but again lovely with some butter and a cup of tea.

All-in-all a good afternoon’s work and very tasty.  Time for a cuppa and a cake with a rest with my foot up now I think.

Happy crafting
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Hearts for Homes

I mentioned a few days ago that I had been asked to supply cards for a craft gift shop in Ramsbottom, so I thought I’d introduce it. It’s called ‘Hearts for Homes’ and is on Bolton Street, Ramsbottom. The proprietor, Kerry, opened the shop a couple of months ago as a place to sell her own handmade homewares. She now also sells work by several local artists and craftspeople.

Green Floral Owl

Green Floral Owl

Having visited the shop I can honestly say it is filled with gorgeousness. There is a lovely homely feel as soon as you walk in and you can feel the love, care and attention that has been put into every item. It’s a haven for unusual and unique gifts for others and yourself, covering all ages from baby blankets to wedding gifts and home décor. It really is a lovely place to be.

Thank You Berry Much

Thank You Berry Much

My cards are on sale there now and I am busy making more to add to the range. As always, the cards are all handmade and although some may be similar designs, all will have at least one element making each card unique.

Natural Love

Natural Love

If you are in Ramsbottom or are stuck for somewhere to go, do visit the town. It’s a haven for foodies with a number of independent cafes, restaurants and food retailers. There is an abundance of chocolate (hence the annual chocolate festival) and plenty of independent shops from toys to music and from fabric to antiques. Plus you can arrive in style on the ELR steam railway. It really is a great day out, so what are you waiting for? Get down to Ramsbottom and don’t forget to pop into Hearts for Homes!

Happy crafting
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Easter activities

We’ve had quite a lot to do this Easter holiday and this week Alice has been entering lots of competitions in our local shopping centres. First the small independent shopping centre, Millgate, ran a competition to design an Easter egg, the first prize is an Easter egg and an egg for everyone in their class at school.

I love watching Alice doing this type of thing. As the deadline is at the end of the week, we went for a cuppa to give her time and space to do her design entry. As usual I had my ‘big’ bag with me which has a box of crayons and some coloured pencils in – I feel this is a real sign of being a Mum!

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Last week we entered the Easter egg hunt on The Rock shopping complex. There always seems to be something like this on there in the school holidays, and it’s something different to do outside. Surprising though, this time Alice won the first prize – a month’s tuition at Explore Learning and an enormous Thorntons Easter Egg filled with Millies Cookies!!! So we collected the prize this afternoon.

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I think we have one happy little girl this Easter holiday and we might just have to share the egg and cookies around friends and family!

Happy Chocolate Eating!
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Fudge

I’ve been thinking about what I could make with the rest of the can of condensed milk after making the marzipan hearts. Eventually I just looked at the can and there was a recipe on it to make chocolate fudge.

It was a pretty easy make – condensed milk, chocolate, and icing sugar! I wasn’t hopeful though, it looked a bit odd while I was making it, but the suggestion was to add some nuts and then leave it in the fridge to set.

I decided to add some marshmallows and raisins as well as some almonds and this is the result!

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It was a nightmare to get out of the tray and to cut up, but it tasted fabulous. It is pretty rich though so only a little piece at a time for me!

I will definitely make it again, though I will have to find a better tray to put it in.

Happy crafting
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Advent Calendar

A few months back I started out with a mission to make an advent calendar for my daughter. I love the look of the little crochet stockings that I’ve been making for tree decorations, so thought they would make a great garland to fill with little treats. It would certainly make a change from a cheap bought calendar and could be re-used for years to come.

Making 24 little stockings proved more difficult that I had imagined. I originally planned for all the stockings to be a deep red with white tops, however, I fairly quickly ran out of the red! So the plan changed to include some dark green stockings with white tops. Here are a few of the first ones I made.

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I had to make sure I kept enough of the red and green to be able to add numbers on to the stockings, so I adapted my plan again to include some white stockings, with red / green tops.

Well after a few weeks thinking there was no way I would get it finished in time for Christmas, I am pleased to say I have finally finished it and we all love it.

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We’ve filled it with celebrations this year, and Alice is thrilled. It’s up in the hall, our first Christmas decoration and it looks lovely. The colours have worked well together and the stockings should fit in small gifts too, so there’s room for different gifts next year!

Well, it’s back to the Christmas makes for me,

Happy crafting
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Holiday Baking

This weekend we were invited to a friend’s annual summer barbecue party. As usual they were providing all the food, so I suggested I would take something for dessert as they hadn’t decided on anything yet! So it was an early start and out with the baking things.

I thought about scones, but settled on a Victoria Sandwich and some biscuits. I didn’t know how many people would be there so I needed something easy to divide up.

As I was going to be pushed for time, I decided on the all-in-one sponge mix from my Delia Smith book. I started with the basic vanilla sponge, splitting the mixture across two cake tins.

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As I still had plenty of ingredients left, I thought I ‘d make another sponge, chocolate this time. I also added some extra chocolate chips to the mixture. I have watched quite a few baking shows recently (being a fan of cake is great with the GBBO back again for another series), and have picked up the tip of rolling fruit in flour before adding it to a mixture so that it doesn’t sink when baking. So I rolled the chocolate chips in flour before adding them to the mixture. It certainly seemed to work as they were pretty evenly distributed in the sponge. Again I decided to make this into a sandwich cake and split the mixture across two tins.

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While the four sponges were baking I started on some raisin biscuits, using the Easter biscuit recipe we all love. I didn’t have a lemon, so they were minus lemon zest, but they are equally as tasty.

So here’s the baking after everything came out of the oven.

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Next it was time to prepare the fillings for the sandwich cakes. My vanilla one was to have raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream, while I decided on chocolate spread and vanilla buttercream for the chocolate chip cake. I thought I had split the buttercream in half, but I obviously wasn’t paying attention as the chocolate cake ended up with twice the amount of the vanilla cake!

Anyway, I finished them both off with a dusting icing sugar, and here’s how they turned out.

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They might not win any prizes on Bake Off, but they are most definitely the best sandwich cakes I have made. And I am pleased to say they went down pretty well at the barbecue too. I managed to get sixteen slices out of each cake. Just the right size! I did manage to snaffle a piece of each and they tasted pretty good too. My daughter loved the Victoria Sandwich and Hubby loved the Chocolate Chip Sandwich – I liked them both, but then I love cake!! As it’s my husband’s birthday next week, I can see another baking session coming on, it will save on buying a cake covered in icing which he hates!

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Easter Holidays

Easter holidays are tough for me this year as I love chocolate and cake and I just can’t have any!  But baking is also one of the best activities for the school holidays.  So with my daughter eager to make something for her friends and family, I helped her out with her idea of making chocolate nests.

This has got to be the easiest ‘baking’ ever!  I let her be in charge and tell me what I needed to do.  So she broke up shredded wheat into a bowl.  I was tasked with melting the chocolate over a pan of hot water and once melted I poured it into the shredded wheat bowl.  She then mixed it all together.  I had bought some Easter themed cake cases and little sticks from a local pound shop and they set the cakes off a treat.  The little nests were then made in each case and some chocolate eggs added to complete the nest effect.

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They looked great once they had set and I believe they tasted pretty good too.  We were certainly popular amongst the neighbours on Easter Sunday!

Now just another 2 weeks of holidays to fill!

Happy crafting
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Half Term Baking

Half Term is upon us again. We have an extra day due to staff training, so we decided to put it to good use and do some baking. My 5 year-old loves being in the kitchen, although she does lose interest after a while.

So today we did some Mum and daughter Halloween cakes and biscuits, some paw-print biscuits and I made my Christmas cake!!

We started off with a very simple all-in-one sponge mix with added cocoa powder. My daughter chose to also add chocolate buttons and mini marshmallows to the mix for extra goo! She loved measuring everything out and adding the ingredients. I have to say she’s much better at cracking eggs than I am!!

Chocolate cakes

We let them bake for about 15 minutes then put them on the side to cool on a rack while we started on the Halloween biscuits to take to a Halloween party tomorrow. These are a really simple butter biscuit recipe. Instead of using castor sugar I used a bag of spiced sugar from a spiced apple juice kit that I’d been given (there was no way I would ever make 2 gallons of spiced apple juice, so what better way to use up the sugar!) The dough needed to rest in the fridge for around 20 minutes before rolling, so to keep her attention, out came the rich tea biscuits. I made a small amount of white water icing to top each biscuit and she added giant and ordinary sized chocolate buttons to make a paw-print on each one. I think they are lovely. So effective and they taste fantastic.

Paw-print biscuits

When the biscuit dough had rested, I rolled it out and my daughter had great fun choosing the spooky shapes to use. She settled on bats, cats, stars (large and small) men and Mickey Mouse! A fun half hour of rolling and cutting followed, with me on a bungee between the table and the oven!. Here’s a peek at the first batch once they had cooked.

Halloween spiced biscuits

They have a very subtle spicy flavour to them from the sugar. Very moreish. I think they will go down well at the Halloween party.

Once all the biscuits were cooling, it was time to decorate the chocolate cakes. Buttercream was the choice, so I made a batch, splitting it in half and adding orange food colouring to one half and green colouring to the other. Very spooky! Then it was little one’s turn to get creative with the decorations, and for her, more is most definitely more!

Halloween Cakes

The overall effect is great though. Very spooky and just right for Halloween.

Happy Halloween fun
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Feel good baking

With being off my feet for a few days, I really needed a pick-me-up.  So I thought I’d see if I could manage to do a bit of baking.  We didn’t have much in the baking cupboard, so it was  a case of making do with what I could find.

I started off with a basic all-in-one sponge mix and added some vanilla essence and fresh blueberries.  The second batch was another all-in-one sponge mix with cocoa powder, m&m’s and mini marshmallows!  They only take a few minutes to bake in the oven and were lovely and moist.

For the icing, I combined vanilla essence with a little water and icing sugar for the blueberry buns.  The chocolate buns are topped with chocolate spread and Halloween hundreds and thousands.

 

Chocolate and Marshmallow

Vanilla and Blueberry

They may be simple, but they do taste good. And they certainly cheered me up (and the rest of the family).

Happy baking
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