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Monday, 19 December 2016

Peppermint Bark

Christmas Treats

It has been a lovely weekend at home.
We've been having fun with finishing off the
last of the Christmas decorations,
icing cakes,
and, of course,
making some delicious Christmas treats.

A personal favourite is Peppermint Bark.

I discovered this recipe just a few years ago,
but it has soon become a very popular

It is so simple to make,
but looks like you have slaved away for
hours in the kitchen.

You will need :

800g white chocolate
300g dark chocolate
1 box of peppermint candy canes
7 tbsp double cream
2-3 tsp peppermint extract

1. Line a baking tray with parchment paper.
I used a tray with about 2cm deep sides.
This will allow plenty of depth for the layers of chocolate.

I also used a few clips to hold the paper in place.
It makes life so much easier.

2. Place the candy canes into a resealable plastic bag,
and bash the living day lights out it.

This is a good way to let go of some of the stress
that has been building up over the past few weeks.
Make sure you do not do this on a wooden surface as it may
damage the wood,
and the same goes for your rolling pin too.
Best to use an old one that won't
be missed.

Once you have broken everything up into small pieces
pour the broken candy through a colander.

This will remove all the dust,
which we will use in the chocolate ganache layer later.

If you find any large pieces of candy cane that 
escaped your earlier beating,
give it another go.

3. Pop half of the white chocolate (400g)
into a heatproof bowl and place
over a pan of warm.

Heat until completely melted,
taking care not to let the bottom of the pan
touch the water,
or else the chocolate will spoil.

Once fully melted,
pour the white chocolate into your prepared tray.

Put the tray into the fridge for about an hour to
set firmly.

4. Once the white layer has set,
it's time to get cracking on the dark chocolate ganache layer.

Do this by placing all of the dark chocolate into a basin
over water as before.

To this, 
add the double cream and peppermint extract.

You can make the flavouring as mild or 
as strong as like at this stage.

I tend to prefer a little bit of a kick to mine,
so I put the full 3 teaspoons into the mixture,
but 2 teaspoons would obviously be a 
little milder.

Santa's Little helper joined in for this bit.

Give the mixture the occasional stir until it suddenly becomes 
a thick, glossy and luxurious mix.

5. Leave the ganache to stand for a few minutes to cool slightly.

Then working fairly quickly,
Pour the ganache over the set white chocolate layer.

Smooth it out and then sprinkle the magical
candy cane dust from earlier over the dark chocolate layer.

Put back into the fridge for an hour to set, as before.

6. For the third and final layer,
it's just as before.

Put the remaining 400g of white chocolate 
into  a clean glass bowl,
and back on the pan of 
warm water until melted.

Pour this over the set ganache layer,
and like before,
try not to dilly dally about over this,
as the warm of white chocolate will
quickly melt the dark chocolate underneath.

Finish by sprinkling the broken candy cane liberally
over the top of the white chocolate,
and again back into the fridge for it's final set.

7. Once everything has set firmly,
remove from the baking tray.
It's now time to start cutting this slab of 
Christmas gorgeousness into pieces.

I trim of the rough edges first.
The left overs are a treat for the baker.

How large, or small,
you cut the pieces is entirely up to you.
It is quite rich so I tend to make the pieces on the small
If you want another piece you can always go back for more.

if they are intended as gifts,
your make will go a lot further in smaller pieces.

Once sliced and diced,
you can pop them into a pretty box
for gifts,
or simply display on plate
for people to graze on as they pass.
(If you dare).

I hope you enjoy giving this recipe a try.
It really is so easy.

Until next time,
enjoy your day.



Friday, 16 December 2016

The Dusklynn Sweater

A Very Chunky Affair

I wanted to make a winter cardigan
for Miss B but I just
didn't have the time to knit one.

Knowing how quickly crochet
will grow I decided to try
a pattern from
which I had seen on line recently.

Heidi May's designs are so pretty and the
majority of them seem to
be in super chunky so will
knit or crochet very quickly.

The patterns are well written
 and clear to understand.

I plumped for the Dusklynn sweater
as we both liked the pattern,
but there are a few more on my
wish list for a later date.

I set about trying to find some super chunky yarn
and discovered this very pretty coloured yarn

It was from Sirdar
and even better,
was reduced in price.

Kiko comes in a few different  shades
and we chose Madie.
Misty is a lovely shade too.
Maybe my next project?

The wool disappears very quickly and
you seem to be reaching for a new
ball of yarn every few rows.

I was worried I would run out of wool
at  one point,
and did need to order
four more balls by post.

I now know to check the yardage
of anything I buy in future,
rather than the gram weight.

We learn from our mistakes, yes?

The body is worked in one piece from the neck down.
The sleeves are added on later.

I have to confess I found the welt a little frustrating.
I just could not get it to lay flat and
in the end I abandoned it and just finished
the edges off with a row
of double crochet.

I think I like the neck more with my
version and Miss B was happy
so that's all that really matters.

It's a wonderfully soft and
tactile cardigan
and I know it will
be just perfect for our rambles down
at the beach
as the weather changes
and becomes more autumnal.

Until next time,
enjoy your day.


Friday, 18 November 2016

Christmas Fruit Cake

Festive Baking Time

It will have been roughly
six weeks since my gorgeous
jewelled box of booze soaked
fruits have been waiting
patiently to be used,
and the time has come to
get out my favourite cake tin  
and get cracking.

This Sunday is Stir up Sunday,
the special day in our baking calendar 
that is dedicated to 
getting our groove on
with all our Christmas baking 
and preparation.

A perfect time get cracking with this
lovely recipe.

I have used a tin I bought in 
Lakeland many years ago,
 which has been lovingly 
the Christmas cake tin.

It's a good, strong 8 inch tin which always
seems to produce a lovely even bake.

Lakeland is one of those shops I
have to wander around,
 and come out of with some random purchase,
that I "had to have"
but didn't really need.

Miss. Bee  refers to Lakeland as a
"mam shop".

In other words,
there is nothing in there of any
faint interest to her!

One of my best tips I can give you when it comes
to baking a fruit cake is to
line your tin well.

Over many years of experiencing 
well baked disasters,
I have found spending a little time on
lining your tin well will pay
a huge reward at the end when you remove
the cake and find beautiful
golden brown sides to the cake.

Double line your tin with good quality
baking parchment and leave a collar
approximately 3 inches above the top of the cake tin.

This will shield the cake whilst baking.

Folding the sheet in half will give just about
enough height for this.

I fold the folded edge back over by about an inch
and make a small cut about a inch apart.

This will allow the paper to sit neatly 
around the base of the tin before you
put the base layer in.

I do find that about two hours 
into the baking process the top of
the cake can start to look done.

I tend to put a cover over at this stage just to
protect the cake from over baking.

The easiest thing for this is a 
piece of baking parchment
crumpled into a ball,
unroll it and then mould it into the
shape of the top of the tin.

Drop the cover down into the collar of
the lining parchment but do not force it down
onto the cake itself.
This will protect the cake without affecting
the baking process itself.

Now to get down to the cake.

This recipe is adapted from Ruth Clemens
a.k.a the Pink Whisk.

Ruth has shared some amazing recipes
over the years and this
has got to be the one recipe I cannot
recommend more.

It is simple to follow,
and the couple of little changes I have made
are insignificant to the original recipe,
but it  tastes delicious.

Ruth suggests a long, 
slow bake to really bring out the flavour
of the cake.

Having tried several ways of baking
fruit cakes over the years,
I have to agree that the slower bake really
does make a huge difference to not only
the flavour of the cake but also the texture.

You will need :
1 x soaked fruit
225g softened butter
150g light brown sugar
75g dark brown sugar
2 tbsp treacle
5 large eggs
285g plain flour
2 rounded tsp mixed cake spice 

1. Pre heat the oven to 110c(fan)/gas mark 1
Cream together the butter and sugars 
until they are light and fluffy.

2. Add the treacle and beat in well.

3. Add each egg and mix well before
adding the next.

I always break the egg into a little jug before adding
to the mixture.
This makes sure the odd bit of egg shell is avoided

4. Next add the flour and mixed spices.
Give it a last stir up and then you are ready 
for my favourite part,
adding the fruit.

5. Gently peel off the lid from your soaked fruit
and just take a second the 
inhale the amazing
smell that will be unleashed 
on your sense of smell.

It is one of those treats that will
evoke every memory of Christmas from your
childhood -
helping your grandmother to
make the Christmas cake in the 
kitchen when you were
a child,
being the chosen one to get the first
slice of the Christmas cake when it was 
cut on Christmas day,
my list could go on!

But I digress,
back to the preparation.

Scrape every last raisin and drip of licour
from your storage bowl into the cake mixture
and gently but firmly stir the mixture until
the fruit looks evenly distributed.

Pour into you prepared cake tin,
smooth off the top of the mixture
and bake in the oven for 
3 hours 45 minutes.

Yes I know it seems like a long time,
but trust me it really is worth it.
Plus the house will smell amazing
for a whole lot longer.

You now have plenty of time to clean up
and of course the most important
part of any cake,
cleaning the spoon.


Be sure to keep an eye on the baking.
I start checking mine after about 2 to 2.5 hours.
If the top starts to look dark brown it's time to
put the hat on!
(see above notes)

Keep checking the cake,
and when a skewer comes out clean,
remove from the oven and allow to cool
completely before removing from the tin.

Once fully cooled,
remove from the tin and it's ready for wrapping,

Lay out two layers of foil and 
two layers of greaseproof paper
like the picture below.

A cross of foil

now a cross of baking parchment on top of the foil

Remove the baking parchment from your cake 
but leave the base disc if you can
as this will help when you are
feeding your cake with the alcohol.

Pop your cake on top of the paper
and foil,
and give it a good basting with
your chosen alcohol.
I used rum, 
but brandy is another popular choice.

Wrap the cake and store in
an airtight container.

Pop it into a cupboard away from direct sunlight
and heat.

Feed it every 3 to 4 days for the next couple of weeks,
or until the cake will not absorb
any more liquid.

That's it - job done!

You can decorate the cake when you
are ready. 
There are so many options for
decorating from 
very traditional royal icing
to more modern fondant designs.

The internet is a wealth of inspiration 
when it comes to cake decorating,
and I would love to see your designs.

Until next time,

enjoy your day.


Monday, 26 September 2016

Apple and Blackberry Jam

Bramble and Bramley Jam

I love September.
Apart from it being my birthday month,
I  have always enjoyed
how the month plays out.

It's that time of year when
you can feel the air is changing a little,
and it is just a little fresher
when we leave the house
in the morning.

The dark nights are creeping in and
the temperature is dropping
once the sun has gone.

I think Autumn maybe on it's way.

Following a recent day out
with my family
down to Bedale,
we made the
serendipitous discovery
of a huge Bramble bush
in the car park.

We always park down by the river
and it has become a ritual
to feed the ducks before we leave.

I make sure to empty the
bread bin before we leave
so that the children
have plenty of
treats to throw to the ducks.

Though I fear Little Bee was just a bit
over enthusiastic this time.
He threw in a whole bread bun,
much to the amusement of his sister,
and the ducks seem more than happy.

On returning to the car
Miss Bee commented on all
the black berries
which I must confess,
I had completely missed.

I discovered an emergency carrier bag
in the boot of the car
and berry picking commenced.

We managed to get quite a haul,
almost a full kilogram,
and some pretty purple fingers to boot.

I had a browse around my recipe books
at home and decided to try
this lovely recipe for
Bramble and Bramley Jam.

It is from Vivien Lloyd 
and is very simple
but tastes delicious.

I got about six medium size
jars of jam from this recipe.

They look beautiful stacked up on my shelf
and the beautiful deep, 
jewelled purple
colour looks so tempting.

I have given a couple away as gifts already
and the recipients seemed very pleased.

I have detailed the recipe below but the
link above will give you the same information.

You will need :

1kg(2lb) blackberries
200ml (7floz) water

340g (12oz) peeled, cored and sliced cooking apples ( prepared weight)

1.4kg (3lb) granulated cane sugar

1. Pick over the blackberries and place them
in a large pan with half the water.
I used my jam pan for this.

Bring to the boil, then simmer until tender.
Place the apples in a separate pan
with the remaining water
and cook until the fruit is pulpy.

Meanwhile warm the sugar
in a low oven,
140C/275F/Gas 1.

2. Place the cooked apples
into the preserving pan
with the blackberries,
Add the warmed sugar
and stir until it has dissolved,
then bring the jam quickly
to a rolling boil.
You benefit from a
thermometer at this stage.

This took about 5 minutes for me.

3. As soon as setting point is reached,
remove the pan from the heat and
leave it to stand for a few minutes.

I prefer to drop a little of the jam
onto a cold saucer and if you
get a little crinkle on the surface
when gently pushed with your finger tip
you know it's ready.

4.  Remove any scum with a metal spoon
by gently pushing out towards
the edge of the pan
and then scooping it  away.

5. Gently stir the jam and pour it into the jars,
 up to the brim.

Seal the jars immediately
with new twist top lids.
Leave the jars upright and
undisturbed until cold.

Label the jars and store in a cool cupboard.

These will keep for approximately
six months unopened
but they are perfect for gifts so
will they last that long?

Have fun with your foraging
and until next time,
enjoy your day.