December 21, 2011

TEMPTATION LOOMS

I called in at our local library yesterday and spotted this book on the shelves.  It’s absolutely gorgeous.  I could eat every page.

couture chocolateI looked it up on Amazon and there is a cute video to promote it featuring the author.

(What a great idea ~ using muffin cases to blind bake mini tartlets ~ why didn’t I think of that ?)

I really don’t need another cookbook, let alone one about chocolate, which I really should give up after New Year.  It’s highly unlikely that I would cook many of the recipes in the book but I have a birthday present of a £25 Amazon gift voucher to spend.  And it’s gorgeous.  But I could spend the voucher on something a lot more useful.

Should I or shouldn’t I………….??

What would you do ??

UPDATE

I resisted temptation, took the book back to the library and treated myself to this one instead:

preppedI decided that it would be much more useful and had enjoyed it when I borrowed it from the library a few months ago.

December 20, 2011

LAST MINUTE CHRISTMAS CAKE

I haven’t made a Christmas cake for the last couple of years.  We both love it and we always used a Delia Smith recipe, which we really used to enjoy making.  (Licking the bowl was the best part.)

But it’s usually me that eats the last third (or even half) of the cake after Christmas, with the consequently disastrous effects on the waistline and the New Year good intentions to do something about it.

christmas cake 1

But when I saw this kit reduced from £10 to £5 in Tesco, my resolve weakened and I simply couldn’t resist. christmas cake 2 christmas cake 3 christmas cake 4

The ingredients all seemed to be good quality.  It said in the instructions that the fruit was already soaked but we gave it a little extra soak in sherry overnight, just in case it needed it.  The little sachet of black treacle had split and emptied most of its contents over the instruction leaflet so I used a spoonful of my own.  The instructions were still readable !!

It baked beautifully, exactly as it said on the tin on the pack, and it smelled divine when it came out of the oven. christmas cake 5

It made a sensibly deep 20cm cake, which I have yet to ice ~ but icing a cake at midnight on Christmas Eve is not that unusual in my house !!  I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Mind you, whilst the cake was in the oven, Nick went to Tesco and there was a huge mountain of the same kits, now reduced to £3.  Sod’s law, as always !!

Ingredients and method

Take one Mary Berry Christmas cake kit, add your own butter, eggs, orange and lemon zest and bake according to instructions.

December 15, 2011

CHOCOLATE ORANGE MUFFINS

choc muffins1It was my birthday last weekend and it is customary for any birthday girl to take cakes to work.  I fully intended to make my own but ran out of time so bought some cupcakes for Sainsbury’s. 

They were disappointing.  The sponge was uninteresting and there was a huge pile of glurpy icing on top which tasted too much of artificial flavouring.  Maybe I’m getting picky, eating so much home-made cake these days.  Luckily there were only three of us in that day to eat them so for the next day (and a different set of colleagues) I decided to make some muffins.

I had found a recipe for chocolate and orange muffins that I thought would do fine for this month’s “We Should Cocoa” challenge hosted by Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog.  Because of my birthday and lack of time I had the perfect reason for baking them.

(Excuse for baking number 24c!)

Muffins are quick and easy to make but usually best eaten on the day they are baked.  So I got all the ingredients measured out and put on one side before going to bed.  Then in the morning, in between taking Nick to the station for the 7.30am train and taking Lulu for her morning walk, I mixed them up and popped them in the oven.

choc muffins2 choc muffins3

As it’s Christmas time I decided to perk them up by sprinkling some crushed sugar pieces on top.  I found these in a French supermarket ages ago and brought them home – I don’t know if you can get them here in the UK – I haven’t looked.

choc muffins4 They were baked in 25  minutes and the kitchen smelled wonderful when I came back from the fields with the dog – in fact she wouldn’t eat her breakfast, nose twitching and hoping for something more interesting.

choc muffins5

She was unlucky this time !!  I packed some in a small box to drop off at my dad’s on the way to work and took the remaining ones with me for us to enjoy with morning coffee and afternoon tea……..well they’re never as good the next day !!

choc muffins6 They were a success, nice and chocolatey and not too sweet.  In fact next time I make them I would be tempted to add a little more sugar……..there’s always the possibility that I forgot to put any in at all…….but I don’t think so.  But if so - it’s my age !!

Ingredients

125g self raising flour

125g self raising wholemeal flour

25g ground almonds

55g soft brown sugar

rind and juice of 1 orange

175g cream cheese

2 eggs

55g plain chocolate chips

Method

Preheat the oven to 190°C/180°fan.  Put 10 muffin cases in a muffin tin.

Sift the flours into a large bowl.  Add the ground almonds and sugar and mix together.  Make a well in the centre.

In another bowl, beat together the orange rind, juice, cheese and eggs.

Pour the egg mixture into the dry ingredients.  Add the chocolate chips and mix together, avoiding over-mixing.  (I found the mixture very dry and stiff so I added a splash of milk here to loosen it.)

Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases.  Bake for 25-30 minutes until well risen and brown.

Cool in the tin for 5 minutes then remove to a wire rack.

Makes 10 muffins.  (My mixture made 11.)  Best eaten the same day !!

December 6, 2011

CHRISTMAS MUFFIN MIX

I was sorting through some old magazines the other day and came across a nice idea for a Christmas present.

The magazine was actually issued last spring but the idea is perfect for Christmas.

muffin mix1  muffin mix3

Basically, you put all the dry ingredients for a batch of spiced muffins in a jar, with instructions, and parcel it up prettily with a  wooden spoon to give as a gift.

muffin mix2

I decided to give this to a couple of my friends who love to bake but don’t always have the time – the part that usually takes most of the time in making muffins is gathering together and weighing out all the ingredients.  With this gift they just tip all the contents into a bowl, add egg, milk and melted butter and bake.

To make it even easier to bake I also included 12 muffin cases and 2 six-hole muffin tins which were only 99p each from the local factory shop.  Everything fits neatly into a gift bag with the perfect Christmas design on it.

The recipe uses “tropical dried fruit mixture” which I couldn’t find locally, so I used a luxury dried fruit mixture and added some dried mango, pineapple, papaya, apricots and a little glacé ginger.

muffin mix9bI got my Kilner jars from the local hardware shop for £2.25 each and the ingredients just fitted in if I pressed them down a bit.

muffin mix4  muffin mix6 muffin mix7 muffin mix8

I thought it was wise to test the recipe by baking a batch myself, just to make sure it worked and tastes ok.

(Excuse for baking number 24b !!)

It was indeed very quick and easy and they tasted deliciously spicy, exactly right for Christmas.

muffin mix9 muffin mix9aI’m sure if someone gave me a muffin kit as easy to bake as this for Christmas I would love it, so I hope my friends do too !!

(I am 99.9% sure none of them read this blog !!)

I looked at the BBC Good Food website and sure enough, although it actually appeared in a Spring magazine, you can see it here, presented as a Christmas recipe !!  I have noticed before that a lot of the Good Food magazine recipes are regularly recycled and will turn up in books and magazines time and again, often using the same picture.

CHRISTMAS MUFFIN MIX

Ingredients

300g self-raising flour

2tsp baking powder

2tsp ground cinnamon

2tsp mixed spice

100g chopped pecans or walnuts

140g tropical dried fruit mixture

100g light muscovado sugar

Method

Layer all the ingredients in the order listed in a 1 litre glass or plastic preserving jar.

Write the following instructions on a gift tag:

“Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°fan/gas mark 5.  Put the muffin cases in the tins.  Tip the contents into a large mixing bowl.  Make a well in the centre and add two beaten eggs, 300ml milk and 100g melted butter.  Mix quickly until just combined.  Divide between the muffin cases and bake for 18-20 minutes.  Best eaten within 24 hours and use within one month.”

Attach the label and wooden spoon to the jar with pretty ribbon or raffia.

December 3, 2011

FOOD BLOGGERS UNPLUGGED

I have been invited by Snowy of Cookbooks Galore to join in “Food Bloggers Unplugged” and reveal all kind of things about my baking !!

1.  What or who inspired you to start a blog ?

I started this baking blog as an offshoot of my first blog about buying and enjoying a holiday home in France.  Once my little French kitchen was established I found I had the time to start baking again and whenever I posted about things I had cooked there, people seemed to be interested.

2.  Who is your foodie inspiration ?

My mother.  Her only recipe book was a well-spattered Be-Ro book and a few scraps of hand-written recipes and magazine cuttings but she was an excellent cook.  As a child in the 1950’s I only ever ate home-cooked food and home-grown vegetables and nothing fancy.  Eating out was limited to a cup of tea and an ice-cream on a trip to the seaside – we took our own sandwiches and cake for a picnic wherever we went.  I now realise how lucky I was.

3.  Your greatest batter-spattered food/drink book is ?

I would have to pick two !!  I am a cookbook addict but I often refer to my own ancient Be-Ro book and my Homepride Flourgraders recipe book that I bought with a coupon from a pack of flour for 13/6d when I first left home and the comfort of my mother’s tiny kitchen.

4.  Tell us about the best thing you've ever eaten in another country, where was it, what was it ?

I have had so many good meals abroad that I truly can’t recall the details of any single one.  The only meal I can actually remember in any detail is the worst meal I ever had, which was in Gigondas in France. 

The starter was a plateful of huge and ugly whelks in a spicy sauce.  The main course was mutton cooked in parcels of tripe in the same spicy sauce.  For dessert we chose the cheese as it seemed the safest option and would fill us up, having eaten nothing so far !!  All chosen by mistake as a result of a misleading translation in a French/English food dictionary !!

5.  Another food blogger’s table you would like to eat at ?

Honestly, I just couldn’t choose.  I would really like to sit in the kitchen of all the bloggers listed on my sidebar and taste and nibble as they work !!

6.  What is the kitchen gadget you would ask Santa for this year (money no object of course) ?

A full set of Le Creuset casserole and baking dishes.  Including the ramekins, please !!

7.  Who taught you to cook ?

My mother.  Also I learned a lot from watching the early Delia Smith cooking programmes on TV.

8.  I’m coming to you for dinner.  What’s your signature dish ?

I don’t have one.  I’m more likely to cook something from my most recently purchased cookbook or that I’ve seen in a blog just a couple of days ago.

9.  What is your guilty food pleasure ?

Tinned rice pudding.  I’d prefer proper home-made rice pudding with a lovely thick brown skin on top but I can never wait that long.

10.  Reveal something about yourself that others would be surprised to learn.

My passion for many years was sub-aqua. I have gathered my own scallops from the seabed when diving off the coast of Scotland, stuffed them in a bag, brought them to the surface and cooked them on a camping stove. 

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Now I must choose some other bloggers to invite them to take part.  No obligation, of course.

First, I choose Anneliese at Rising to the Berry, who is cheerfully and bravely baking her way through Mary Berry’s Baking Bible.

Next, Miss Cakebaker, at What I Baked This Weekend who seems to enjoy baking challenges and bakes lovely cakes.

Thirdly, I choose Lucy at The KitchenMaid who blogs from New Zealand and whose blog I have only recently discovered and am enjoying catching up on.

Last of all, I would have chosen Snowy, without a doubt, but she’s done it already and picked me !!

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Apologies to anyone who has already been tagged or doesn’t want to take part.