Christmas Cake

Here’s a Christmas lesson, this post was written early and posted late because there are so many things that I’m always trying to do at this time of year. I need to learn to slow down and enjoy the time more.

It’s been an introspective year for me. I’ve thought of so many times in my life I’ like to go back to and tell myself to make different decisions or to make decisions for the right reasons not because of being scared or feeling that there was no choice. But time travel isn’t possible and I’m trying to learn to give myself the same care that I extend to others. To allow myself to know I made the best decisions I could at the time with the information I had. We can’t go back in time but we can go forward with all of the life experience and knowledge we have and make decisions for the right reasons in future.

As I write it’s December 1st and I’m waiting for my Christmas Cake to come out of the oven. It’s at least a month after it ‘should’ have been made and it’s made to a much more simple recipe than the usual recipe I use. But rather than having to try and convince myself it’s not happened that way because I’m never good enough or organised enough or have let anyone down I feel happy it’s done now. I decided to do other things up until now and I decided to make this recipe, not the other one. There really isn’t a sort of person who makes the perfect family recipe Christmas Cake and a sort of person who buys a cake there’s only the sort of person who does what they do with the time they have and deserves to be happy and proud of themselves.

As usual, Mary Berry can be relied on to provide a lovely simple recipe.

I made it a bit more special by soaking the fruit in a mix of sherry and brandy overnight before I started.

IMG_20171130_194054

My heirloom electric whisk from the 1980s finally gave up the ghost during the creation of cupcakes for the school Christmas Bizarre so I ended up making this using the food processor as I’ve become much too lazy to cream butter and sugar by hand.

Adding the flour and ground almonds and a little orange essence as we didn’t have almond and it seemed more suitable than peppermint which was the other alternative in the cupboard.

DSC_0904.jpg

Had to mix in the fruit by hand after draining off the excess alcohol (which I saved to pour on once the cake is cooked) maybe I should have used a slightly bigger mixing bowl because it was a bit tricky to hold such a full bowl while pouring mixture into the tin.

Once the cake was cooked and had plenty more alcohol poured over the top it is cooled and stored for a couple of weeks before it’s ready for the marzipan and icing.

DSC_0907

 

Christmas Cake

 

 

 

Advertisements

Meringues

This weekend we had spaghetti carbonara which involved egg yolks. Thought I would have a go at making meringues with the egg whites. There were a lot so I used up all the sugar but they went the best I’ve ever managed. I think the key was in all the extra whisking as suggested by the Meringue Girls.

I shared on my Instagram stories as I went so I ended up with videos which gave me more fun (and some swearing) today making a how-to video…

There was so much mixture I also managed to make a pavlova which is pretty much my favourite dessert ever. There’s too much sugar for true healthiness but I’m going with sort of healthy because fat-free!

Yummy and Healthy Chocolate Cookies

Trying to learn how to make the most out of life. You can’t control everything in life, some decisions might be out of your control. But you can control how you react to the cards you’re dealt.

So I can’t control how much I like chocolate and how unhealthy that can become but I can keep on working on making healthy but yummy things that provide a less unhealthy way to get a chocolate kick.

These are adapted from a recipe in one of my favourite cookbooks.

Cream together:

1/2 cup butter or coconut oil

2 tablespoons nut butter (almond or peanut for example)

3 tablespoons brown sugar

1 tablespoon molasses or honey

Then whisk in one egg.

Stir in:

1/2 Cup self-raising flour

1/4 Cup cocoa

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

pinch salt

1 cup oats

1 teaspoon super seed mix

Mix till combined then stir through:

1/2 cup chocolate chips

Use your fingers to form small balls, place on a greased baking tray and flatten slightly.

Bake at 350f 180c or gas mark 4 for 15 minutes.

 

See if you can resist eating until they’ve cooled a little at least then compete with your family to eat the most because they’re so yummy.

img_20171120_204921.jpg

 

Halloween Special Pumpkin Cookies

I’ve been thinking about and feeling frustrated over the way people are valued only by the money they make not their true intrinsic value again this week. But also aware that I’m incredibly privileged to have the time and energy for philosophical thinking.

Parenting struggles have included how to get your child to calm down and go to bed when they are completely full of sugar from the strangest celebration invented yet, Halloween. Which seems to have developed from celebration of spooky scary things to community spirit and neighbourliness with a sugar focus. As much as I suspect the amount of money confectionary producers are making may have something to do with the growth in popularity I still really enjoyed meeting so many neighbours.

We had fun making our pumpkin lanterns but as always I needed to do something with the pumpkin insides so they weren’t wasted. Turns out there’s so much you can do. Curry for dinner, roasted seeds to snack on, syrup for making my own pumpkin spice latte. Last but definitely not least these really yummy cookies.

Oat, flour and spices in one bowl and melted butter, pumpkin puree and maple syrup mixed in another. Then combine the two bowls with each other and add the chocolate chips. Spoon onto a lined baking tray and bake in a medium oven 10-15 minutes.

They’re still a little soft when they come out the oven but a pretty good consistency once cooled and really delicious. A tiny bit cakey so the search for the perfect healthy cookie continues but if I have more pumpkin to use up again I’d happily make more of these too.

collage-2017-11-02-21_09_44.jpg.jpg

 

Lots of parties.

Almost into the third week so here’s two weeks in one before I have to do three weeks in one!

There was a fifth birthday in our house this week and lots of parties to celebrate so both weeks the baking in the house was cake. Last week I made pumpkin cupcakes which were also seasonal.

This week it was birthday cake.

This is just a regular sponge cake made with the same weight each of self-raising flour, sugar and butter or margarine as 3 eggs plus a teaspoon of vanilla essence. The batter was split into three bowls and each one coloured with a different gel food colouring. When baked and cooled it was iced with shop bought buttercream icing and covered in rainbow sprinkles.

Slice of rainbow cake with sprinkles on top

Pumpkins are in all the shops at the moment. It’s a bit soon for carving if you want them to be still fresh on Halloween though plus I hate all the waste so I’m always looking for ways to use what’s emptied out for carving. This recipe requires pureed pumpkin which can be made by baking the pumpkin then removing the seeds and skin or by removing seeds and skin and then boiling the chopped up flesh. It needs to be well strained to remove as much water as possible before being pureed.

I used this recipe which is easy to follow and required things that were already in my cupboard.

The wet ingredients are mixed in a food processor then added to the dry ingredients.

img_20171018_205223.jpg

I found it a bit of a liquid batter which made a challenge for getting into the cupcake cases. Best method seemed to be pouring from the bowl which also works your arm muscles! Which explains the messy cake tray.

img_20171018_211146.jpgI needed to make dairy free icing rather than cream cheese icing but apparently failed to photograph after I iced so this is the finished cupcakes. Without the icing, they were almost like muffins. The taste team approved as did the party guests. If I get time and another pumpkin I might try for a low sugar version.

 

 

Chocolate Bites

Chocolatebites

I’m not doing super well at heating healthily but I’m trying and I’m getting some other things done so I’m cutting myself some slack.

But if super yummy snacks are this easy every time I might be about to do a lot better at healthy eating without too much trouble!

There are so many recipes for these kinds of no-cook easy to eat naturally sweet bites.

Mine are made with:

1 Cup Oats

3 Tablespoons cocoa powder

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon honey

8 dates

and a little water.

The dry ingredients go in the blender or food processor until they’re flour consistency.

Then the vanilla dates and honey are added and the food processor switched on again.

DSC_0622

As the mixture begins to come together a little water can be added so that it sticks together (but isn’t sticky).

The mixture is made into small bite size balls and then goes in the fridge to set.

The only problem with these is they are all gone already because they are too yummy.

 

 

 

Overextending and Chocolate Brownies

I’ve had a couple of new projects I’ve been working on and one, in particular, that has been pretty full on, for good reason, the last few weeks. I’ve also been thinking about the future again and continuing to support my small (and not so small) people through life’s challenges. It’s all good but I’ve not been doing so well at really filling my own cup so I’ve got the resources to keep on giving out. I know I need to change that but the inbuilt guilt is a struggle so I was pretty relieved to read this article

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-introverts-corner/201709/the-overextended-introvert-handle-care 

and realise I’m not going crazy and I’m not alone, think my husband was relieved to find that I wasn’t really going to run away with the circus either.

This weekend was pretty busy but we managed to get everyone together at the table for dinner on Sunday. So these brownies were for pudding and were declared yummy by the members of the taste team who weren’t too full or too keen on having a lolly.

They’re a different recipe for avocado brownies than we used before and slightly less healthy but more gooey and chocolatey.

They’re made with maple syrup and brown sugar. Realised at the last minute that I had run out of cocoa powder but the hot-chocolate powder and syrup seemed to work ok as a substitute.

The real decadence was in adding the chocolate chips at the end. The looked a little overdone when they came out of the oven but were pretty perfect once they had cooled down.

DSC_0594

Amazing Chocolate Pudding

This week’s baking involved another flashback. This time to University days when I used to make this Chocolate Fudge Pudding as a treat for my friends because it’s pretty cheap to make but really indulgent and super yummy. Just the thing for people who need lots of energy, a bit like my kids who are always hungry, especially after a day at school.

This week’s musings have been about if we’re possibly causing a problem for ourselves. If we tell small children to smile and pretend not to be sad as they go into school so they can get a sticker and then we wonder why our teenagers are unable to express how they feel and talk it out but rather tell us they are ‘fine’ and then start self-harming or develop an eating disorder! (To be clear I’m talking about ‘we’ as a society, not my own family). So no, I’m not happy about the accidental wee in my bed this morning but yes, I am going to keep cuddling my children whenever they need me to (or let me in the case of the teenagers).

On to the recipe, chocolate always helps me feel better.

Chocolate Fudge Pudding.

Sift:

1 cup plain flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons sugar

Add:

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons oil

1 teaspoon vanilla

DSC_0540

 

Mix it all together until it’s a brownie type consistency batter and pour or spoon into a greased 6″ square tin.

In a separate bowl mix together:

1 cup brown sugar

4 tablespoons sugar

Sprinkle over the batter.

DSC_0542

Pour 1 1/2 cups of boiling water over the top and bake at 350f 175c Gas 4 for 40 minutes.

When cooked the cake is at the top and the sauce underneath just like magic. Tastes like magic too and even better with a little ice cream or cream.

DSC_0547

 

Moments

Prioritising has never been a strong point for me I’m good at getting bored easily and forgetting what I was supposed to be doing. I may have mentioned before I need lists. This is never more true than on weeks like this one when my youngest started full time school and suddenly I was already busy every day of the week. I’m trying to take things slow and appreciate the small moments so that all of the things that need to be done don’t become overwhelming.

I’ve been continuing to think about how we need to teach ourselves and our children to cultivate positive mental health and good practices and habits to help prevent potential problems rather than just firefight when the problems start to get bad. This week I’m trying to slow down and remember the most important thing happening in my life is my children are growing up. To do this I’m trying to make sure I look at them and listen properly when they talk to me. To spot the times of day they are ready to open up and to focus and listen. It’s not easy especially when all three want to talk at once but just because I don’t always succeed doesn’t mean I’m giving up.

Looking for recipes for lunch box friendly cakes and biscuits made me remember a favourite from my own childhood. Mary Berry (yes always the family favourite cookbook) Melting Moments.

DSC_0511

I’ve made one small adjustment because I don’t buy margarine anymore, sometimes I swap for butter but this time I swapped for coconut oil.

It’s a cream fat and sugar add egg and then flour and oats type of recipe. The biscuits are shaped by hand and rolled in oats then flattened on the tray. As with all the recipes in the book pretty simple.

They’re baked at quite a low temperature and for 20 minutes which was just about perfect, the tray on the top shelf slightly more well done than the one on the middle meaning those ones were crunchier and the middle shelf ones were chewier.

The taste team took their responsibilities very seriously and rated them ‘good’ on smell, snap, crunch and chew.

DSC_0514

Back in the kitchen happy place

DSC_0329Tring out some new flour in my sourdough this weekend. The rolls are a mix of wholemeal and rye flour. They’re made with honey and butter so are sweet and soft. Not my favourite but I wanted them to go with soup which is next on my list along with more flapjack of course. The loaf is made with the regular wheat starter but then all spelt flour. It tastes amazing, the perfect mix of soft middle and crunchy but not too hard crust. I’m thinking the same recipe could be made into baguette shapes and would even make the fussy teenagers happy.

This week we’re almost back on it with the older kids routine which is making everyone a bit less stressed, although we’re still working on some kind of screen time compromise that doesn’t suit anyone!

It’s been the last week at home with one afternoon of trying out school for the youngest. Such a mix of emotions. Not looking forward to having to get out of the house in time for school every day but very much looking forward to routine and time to do things other than child care better.

Baking for fun partly motivated by having forgotten to buy any treats for lunch boxes this week. Back to good old Mary Berry Fast Cakes. These are Chocolate Fudge Squares and live up to every part of their name as expected.

The only issue being they sunk in the middle. Sorted by adding extra icing to make it look flat. So for those who like icing the middle pieces are the ones to aim for!

Extremely yummy, not at all healthy.