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Monday, 13 October 2014

Crochet Baby Blanket

Baby Bell's Blankie

 A dear friend from work recently gave birth to her first baby -
a gorgeous little boy, called Harrison.
He is an adorable little chap, and I really wanted to give him something very special,
to keep him snug and warm,
and also that he could keep as a childhood keepsake
(or perhaps more for Mummy to keep).

I thought of all the bits and bobs I still have from my own childhood,
 and in deed the things I have kept from my own two little ones.
The thing that instantly sprang to mind was a blanket  to keep Harrison warm,
but that I could make myself and mean it was
handmade with love,
 for someone special.

I flicked through all of my crochet books
(which I must admit there were a few more than I realised)
 for some inspiration,
and came across a simple but lovely pattern by
The block is called Square Target.

The yarn I chose was Peter Pan Sweetheart double knit and was very easy to work with.
The colours worked really well together
(more by luck than experience).
I used pale blue, dark blue, dove grey and white for contrast.

This wool has now been discontinued,
which is a real shame,
because it really did feel so soft when the blanket was completed.

I am still getting the hang of putting colours together,
but my colour palate is broadening with each project I make.
Playing with colour can be so much fun.

The size worked out just right for a pram blanket.
I worked with 8 squares x 6 squares.

The border was worked using a row of simple treble stitches in white and alternate rows of a chain of five single stitches in each of the colours.
I found the tutorial from Lucy at Attic 24 very helpful with this.

The final edging was from a website I stumbled across and I must confess I cannot remember the name of it,
but it was very easy to work,
 and effective with softening the edge of the blanket
and giving a delicate fluted effect.
The finished item was carefully wrapped,
with little Miffy for company,
and given to my friend at her baby shower.
Now the autumnal weather has settled in I hope little Harrison is cosy and warm with his blankie,
and Miffy is enjoying lots of cuddles too.

Unitl next time, enjoy your day.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Rhubarb and Orange Jam

Time for a Summer Treat

June is here, and although the weather is somewhat 'mixed' at the moment,
my thoughts have turned to all the lovely Summer produce that is coming into season.
Rhubarb is in abundance in the shops at the moment.

The lovely Cynthia was also very kind to me this year,
and gave me a huge bag of these delicious beauties.

It's beautiful soft pink stalks beg to be used for something, 
but what I ask myself?

My first thoughts were of good old fashioned crumble,
 a batch of which are safely tucked away in the freezer,
but I still had a heap of the stuff left over.

So I decided to experiment a little and came up with this very simple recipe.

It really does not take a great deal of effort but the rewards are delicious.
It is best stored in the fridge and will keep for up to six months.

You will need :

1 kg fresh rhubarb, chopped into 1 inch pieces
400 g caster sugar
2 tbsp grated orange zest
100 ml orange juice
105 ml water

1. In a large saucepan 
( I am lucky enough to have a jam pan for this but if you do no have one, a large pan will do), 
combine the rhubarb, sugar, orange zest, orange juice and water.
Bring to the boil, then cook over a medium to low heat for around about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally until thick.

It should thicken a little more as it cools.
After you bring the jam to the boil, 
begin testing for the setting point.

To do this place a small amount of the jam on a cold plate.
If it wrinkles when you push it with your finger, it is ready to be put into the jars.

2. Ladle into hot, sterile jars and seal with lids.

3. Allow to cool and decorate the jars as you wish. 
That is the fun bit, 
and store in the fridge.

This is a lovely, sweet tasting jam.
I have given a few jars of it away as gifts and received some very kind compliments.

Until next time, enjoy your day.


Monday, 5 May 2014

Lemon Drizzle Cake

Bank Holiday Baking

During a recent browse around the shops in my lunch break I was drawn to the huge poster in the window of Poundland.
It was advertising the new line of Jane Asher bake ware.
I was in there like a shot, I can tell you.

Who would believe the  'Queen of Cakes', Jane Asher was in cahoots with none other than bargain shop, Poundland?
This had to be worthy of some investigation.

I was surprised at the range of products available, and not to shabby quality either.
(Just remember this is the pound shop, and you get what you pay for.)

The items may not be the most sturdy of plastic, but a good design none the less.

There is a wide range of products, ranging from bake ware and tins,
cake boxes, utensils, and even a recipe book by Jane Asher.

I plumped for the recipe book 
(because I have so few), 
the tray bake box and a sieve.

The tray bake box is the perfect size for a loaf tin bake and so the decision was made of what I would be baking with this weekend.
The loaf tin it was.

I read through all of Jane's recipes in her book and thought the lemon drizzle cake would be a good choice for my hungry brood.

What's not to like about lemon + cake ?

Plus I had the perfect box to store it in.

(Small persons fingers are optional)

You will need :

  • 175g butter
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 3 medium eggs
  • grated zest of 1 unwaxed lemon and juice of two
  • 175g self raising flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 50g granulated sugar

1. Pre heat the oven to 180c/ fan 165c 
Line the base and sides of a medium sized loaf tin, allowing a couple of centimetres of the parchment to come above the edge of the tin.
I used a liner for this which is much easier.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together with an electric hand whisk, beating well until pale and fluffy.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well with each addition.

4. Add the gated lemon zest, and fold in the flour and salt.

5. Stir in the milk and then place the mixture into the prepared loaf tin.

6. Bake in the oven for 35-45 minutes, until springy to touch and a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Remove from the oven but do not remove from the tin.

7. Meanwhile make the lemon drizzle mixture.
Put the granulated sugar and lemon juice into a heavy bottomed pan and bring to the boil.
Stir continuously until the sugar has dissolved.
Boil strongly for approx. 30 seconds and the liquid will appear a little more syrupy.

8. make several holes in the top of the cake, going right to the bottom the tin.
Pour the hot syrup all over the cake, allowing it to seep into the holes and allow excess surface liquid to slowly disappear into the cake too.
This will takes about 30 minutes.

9. Carefully lift out of the tin, by holding the edges of the parchment.
Gently peel away the paper or liner.

10. I decided to cover my cake with a lemon butter cream icing.
To make this cream blend 50g of butter, 100g of icing sugar, a little lemon zest and the juice of one lemon.
Beat well to prevent to butter cream from curdling.
Smother onto the top of your cake and decorate with a few curls of lemon rind.

The perfect way to enjoy a warm, sunny bank holiday.

I have a batch of bank holiday brownies in the oven, which the little people are chomping at the bit for.
Waiting for things to cool is not a concept a 2 and 6 year old understand really.

Until next time, enjoy your day .

Monday, 14 April 2014

Happy Easter

Chocolate and Hazelnut 
Easter Cupcakes

Easter has finally arrived. 
It does feel rather late this year.
Miss B has been counting down the days to finishing school.
If nothing else, it has helped her understand how the calendar works and to remind me of the date.
I tend to forget what day it is, never mind what the date is.

Miss Bee had her Easter party at Rainbows the other day, for which we were asked
to send in some nice treats.
My mind instantly thought of CHOCOLATE.
I wonder where the association of Easter and chocolate came from?
But who cares? Any excuse to eat, bake with, 
and enjoy Chocolate, 
is good enough for me.

I had a jar of Nutella in the cupboard which had miraculously managed to remain unopened, 
but I knew it was time to unscrew the top and let it go.

So my recipe choice had to include this most divine of indulgent ingredients.

I browsed through my recipe books and came across this recipe from the Hummingbird Bakery.

This was the first baking book I bought a few years ago, that I think was responsible for igniting my forgotten love of baking.

I have referred back to it so many times, and the favourite recipes have greasy fingerprints and food splattered all over them.

It is truly loved in the Busy Bee house.

You will need :

For the cupcakes -

  • 100g plain flour
  • 20g cocoa powder
  • 140g caster sugar
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 40g butter, room temperature
  • 120ml whole milk
  • 1 egg
  • 120g Nutella (or something similar)

For the frosting -

  • 250g icing sugar, sifted
  • 80g unsalted butter at room temperature
  • 25ml whole milk
  • 90 Nutella

1. Pre heat the oven to 170c / 150c fan and line a 12 hole cake tin with paper cases.

2. Cream the butter and sugar together with a hand held whisk. 
This will not come together as the usual smooth mixture due to small amount of butter, 
but should resemble more of a sandy texture.
Add the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt, and get it all a whisk until it has mixed together nicely.

3.Slowly pour the milk into the flour mixture, beating well until all the ingredients are well mixed.
Add the egg and beat well. 
Bring together with a spatula, 
scraping excess from the sides of the bowl.

4. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases. I found an ice cream scoop very helpful for this.
You get an equal quantity in each paper case, and the mixture comes out easily with the squeeze of the handle.

5. Bake in the pre-heated oven for approximately 20 minutes, or until the sponge bounces back when touched.
Leave the cupcakes to cool completely before the next stage.

6. When the cupcakes are cold, hollow out a small section in the centre of each cake and fill with a 
generous dollop (I love that word) of Nutella.

7. Next make the frosting. 
Beat the sifted icing sugar and butter together on a medium to slow speed until the mixture comes together and is mixed well.
Turn the mixed down the a slower speed and gradually add the milk.
When it is all Incorporated, turn the speed up to high and continue beating until the frosting is light and fluffy.
Around five minutes ought to do it.

8. stir in the Nutella spread by hand until evenly mixed and spoon onto the top of each cupcake.
The Hummingbird recipe says to top with shelled hazelnuts but I went for the classic
Mini Egg decoration instead.
It is Easter after all.

I decorated my cupcakes with these gorgeous little cupcake sleeves and toppers, which I found in my local bargain store.
You can pick them up all over the place at the minute for a very reasonable price.

These cost me a whole £1 for a pack of twelve sleeves and toppers.
I think they really set the cakes off.

Until next time,
Happy Easter.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Store Cupboard Spring Cleaning

Sweet Mince Frangipane Tart

I recently created this recipe with some leftovers from Christmas.

 I suddenly realised that I didn't know what was lurking at the back of my fridge and it was in need of a long over due clean out.
The fact I couldn't see the back of the fridge any more was more than a good enough incentive to have a Spring clear out.

I was on a mission - sleeves rolled up, bin bag at the ready.......

There were a few surprising finds - Vitalite margarine (with a best before date of November 2012),
long forgotten jars of jam, mustard with a tea spoon left in the bottom of the jar,
a squeezy bottle of salad dressing that was entirely inedible.
Gosh, how embarrassing.

However, I did feel a huge sense of satisfaction that my top shelf was clear
(and the bin bag was full)
and the light in the fridge actually illuminated the lower shelves now.

One little bit of unexpected treasure I found was a jar of  home made sweet mince  left over from Christmas.
This stuff keeps for at least six months so I was most definitely not going to let this tasty treat go unused.

The dilemma was, "what do I do with it"?

I couldn't really make individual mince pies in April. 
That would be just plain wrong.

So I played around for a little while, 
perused my many recipe books, 
and with a little help form the lovely Mary Berry, 
I came up with the idea of a big tart that you could cut into individual slices.

So quick and easy.

You will need :

For the pastry -
225g plain flour
100g butter
50g caster sugar
1 egg
1 tablespoon of water

For the filling -
Generous helping of home made sweet mince meat
175g butter
175g caster sugar
4 eggs
175g ground almonds
1 teaspoon of almond extract

For the topping -
75g icing sugar
juice of half a lemon
50g flaked almonds

1. Pre heat your oven to 190c / 170c fan / gas 5. 

2. To make the pastry I use my food processor. 
Simply pulse the flour and butter together until the mix resembles breadcrumbs. 
Add the caster sugar and give it another quick whizz. 
Finally add the egg and as much of the water as necessary to bring the mix together into a ball. 
This is so quick and easy but if you prefer, or do not have a processor, just use the usual rubbing-in method. 
Tip onto the bench and gently work the dough for a few seconds, wrap in cling film, and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.

3. Roll our the pastry on a floured surface and use to line your desired shaped flan tin. 

I used a square one which I picked up last year from TKMaxx and it's been begging to be used, but I simply never had anything appropriate to put in it.
It is the equivalent of a 10 inch tin.
I tend to roll the pastry out over the loose bottom of the tin so that I can see how much pastry I will need to line the sides.

When ready simply fold the sides of the pastry in on themselves and plop the base back into the tin, and you can unfold the pastry into place.

This eliminates having to fight with the pastry on the rolling pin and then tearing it when you are trying to get it evenly into the tin a thing of the past.

4. If you have time pop the lined pastry tin back into the fridge to chill for a further 10 minutes, then line with parchment paper and fill with ceramic baking beans.
Place on a baking tray and blind bake in the oven for around 15 minutes until the pastry appears 'set' and a pale brown colour.
Remove the baking beans and paper and place back into the oven for a further 10minutes until the base is completely cooked.
By this time it will be a more golden colour.

5. Now to make the filling. 
Pop the butter and sugar back in the processor and blend until smooth and creamy, 
or if doing by hand, cream together until you get the same consistency.
Add the eggs and blend, then finally mix in the ground almonds and almond extract.
This should now resemble a soft , thick, creamy mixture.

6. Spread a thin layer of the sweet mince onto the base of the cooked pastry case and spoon the almond mixture on top.

7. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the filling is set.
If it starts to look a little too brown on top before cooking is finished, simply cover loosely with a piece of tin foil.

8. Remove from the oven.

9. To finish the topping, make the glace icing by mixing the lemon juice with the icing sugar. 
You can add a little water if necessary until it reaches a pouring consistency.
Spread gently over the tart with a pastry brush and then sprinkle the flaked almonds on top.

Pop the tart back into the oven for 5-10 minutes just to set the icing and it will take on a lovely glazed shine.

Serve warm or cold.

Until next time, enjoy your day.