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Disruption of Normal Service

Wednesday 31 December 2014
Please excuse the sporadic schedule of blogging, having a 14 week old baby and 3 older children and a husband to take care of is proving to be more challenging and more tiring than I expected. It's been 8 years since we had a newborn and I'd forgotten all about how tough it can be.  Bubs is a lovely healthy boy, breast feeding is going well, and his older sisters absolutely adore him.  

Some days being a wife and Mum and keeping the housework ticking over is all I can get done.  Some days not even that happens very well.  I'm a wife and Mum first and everything else comes after that.  Please bear with me as I figure out how to work around our new schedules, sleep deprivation, my family's needs, and find a new normal.

Over the festive season we have all been poorly at one time or another and our boiler has been working intermittently and sounds like it is being disemboweled when it does. This means sporadic hot water and heating, accompanied by the boiler making a racket loud enough for the neighbours to hear.  We live in hope it will be fixed in early January.

I will try and blog our Meal Plans when time allows as well as my usual recipe posts.  Thanks so much for your understanding and patience.

Quick Cinnamon Swirls aka Chelsea Buns

Tuesday 30 December 2014
My 3 daughters love to bake, and also love Chelsea Buns.  If we make them without raisins then they are Cinnamon Swirls with raisins they are Chelsea Buns.  My 11yo decided she would like to bake these one rainy afternoon over the festive season.  They were delicious!  This recipe is quick, only one short proving time, so is perfect for afternoon tea or morning tea if you start making them after breakfast.

Quick Cinnamon Swirls aka Chelsea Buns

250ml milk, I used semi skimmed
50g butter, softened
500g plain or white bread flour
1 sachet instant yeast (7g)
50g white sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 free range egg

200g light soft brown sugar
4 tsp ground cinnamon
110g butter, softened
100g raisins

200g icing sugar
30g, butter melted
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
1-2 Tblsp milk

Add all the dough ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix until a soft dough forms then then knead until smooth and elastic. This took about 5 - 7 minutes in my mixer.

Whilst the dough is being kneaded in the mixer prepare the filling. Beat the butter, sugar and cinnamon together until well combined.  Grease a 25cm x 35cm (approximately 9×13 inches) baking dish. I use a large pyrex dish.

Roll out the dough into a rectangle about 30cm x 40cm (12 x 15 inches). Spread filling mixture over the dough then sprinkle over the raisins.  Roll up from the longer side of the rectangle and pinch the edge to seal. Cut the roll into 12 equal pieces and place into your prepared pan. Cover pan with a clean towel and leave to rise in a warm place for about 30 - 45 minutes. In the mean time, preheat your oven to 180C/160C Fan.

When the rolls have proved bake for 15-20 minutes until golden brown and cooked through.  Leave to cool in the baking dish for a few minutes before serving.  If you want to ice these swirls then mix all the glaze ingredients together to form a smooth mixture before pouring over the rolls. Wait a few more minutes until the glaze starts to set then serve the rolls.

Merry Christmas!

Thursday 25 December 2014

My family and I would like to wish all my blog readers and your families a very Merry Christmas and say a HUGE thank you for reading and supporting me and my blog. I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas Day and a great start to the New Year.

Special thoughts, big hugs and hopes for peace to all those for whom Christmas is painful, stressful or sad for whatever reason.  Special thoughts and thanks also to those who keep us safe and well over this holiday time, to all those working - whether paid or unpaid - we hope you have a restful time when you can and thank you for all you do.

From my family to yours, Merry Christmas Everyone!

Chocolate, Cherry and Cranberry Wreath Cake

Saturday 20 December 2014
I decided to bake one of these cakes for my 8yo's teacher who is most lovely, and like most teachers, in need of a chocolate treat near the end of this term at school.  

Chocolate, Cherry and Cranberry Wreath Cake

200g butter, softened
200g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or good quality extract
4 free range eggs, I used large
225g self raising flour
50g cocoa powder
100g glace cherries, rinsed and halved
75g dried cranberries

Preheat your oven to 190C/170C Fan.  Grease a ring cake tin really well.  I used a 25cm ring cake pan.

Cream the butter, sugar and vanilla together until pale and fluffy.  Gradually beat in the egg whilst your mixer or hand mixer is running.  If the mixture looks like it may be starting to curdle add a tablespoon or two of flour.  This will stabilise the mixture.

Once all the egg has been incorporated stir in the flour and cocoa powder until completely incorporated.  Add the cherries and cranberries and mix once again.

Spread the mixture evenly into your prepared cake tin.  Bake for 40 - 50 minuntes depending on the size of your cake tin.  Leave in the tin for around 10 minutes before turning the cake tin upside down on a wire rack.  Remove the cake from the tin and leave to cool completely.

Chocolate Glaze

150g chocolate, roughly chopped
50g butter
1 Tblsp golden syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract

In a bowl set over a saucepan of simmering water combine the chocolate, butter and golden syrup.  Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth.  Add the vanilla, let the mixture cool a little then spread the warm glaze over the top of your cooled cake.

Gingerbread Houses

Tuesday 16 December 2014
As is a festive tradition in our house, gingerbread houses were made and decorated.  This year instead of one big house that all of us work on, each of my 3 daughters made their own.  It kept them busy for a long time.  They all made their own dough, cut out the templates, baked the dough then assembled and decorated their houses.

They used the dough recipe from this post and some of our rather impressive sprinkles collection.

Do you make gingerbread houses over the festive season? Are there any traditional bakes that you make with/for your family this time of year?

Lussekatter, Lucia Saffron Buns

Saturday 13 December 2014
We've been baking some Scandinavian Christmas breads lately as a change from our usual Christmas bakes.  It is so much fun! This time we baked Lussekatter or Lucia Saffron Buns.  These buns are traditionally eaten in Scandinavia during Advent and especially on December 13 which is Saint Lucy's Day.  Saint Lucia, is the patron saint of light and December 13th was originally thought to be the shortest day of the year so it is still the date chosen in Sweden to celebrate the return of lighter days.  

The buns are similar to brioche but flavoured with saffron.  They are shaped in spirals with two raisins in the center of each swirl.  We made these by hand on a cold and crisp Saturday morning and ate hem for afternoon tea accompanied by a hot chocolate.  All 3 girls helped mix, knead and shape the dough - a great collaborative effort!

Lussekatter, Lucia Saffron Buns

1 tsp saffron threads
250 ml semi skimmed milk
75g butter, melted and cooled
500 g strong white bread flour
50g sugar
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
10g fast action yeast
24 raisins
beaten free range egg, to glaze

Heat the milk until hot then add the saffron threads, stir well then leave to cool for 10 minutes so the saffron can infuse the milk with flavour and colour.  Strain the milk to remove the saffron threads then stir in the melted butter until completely combined. 

Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and yeast into a bowl.  Add the milk and butter mixture then mix until a dough forms.  Turn the dough out.  Knead the dough on an unfloured surface for at least 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Put the dough back into the bowl and cover with greased clingfilm.  Leave to prove until doubled in size, this took about an hour and a half.  Grease and line two baking trays.

Knock the dough back and divide into 12 equal pieces, ours weighed about 70 grams each.  We rolled and shaped our dough on an unfloured surface.  Roll out each piece like a sausage until it is about 25cm (10 inches) long then roll each end into the middle to form an S shape, see the photos.

Put the S shapes of dough onto the baking trays, cover once again with greased cling film and leave to prove again for 45 minutes to 1 hour until doubled in size again.

Preheat your oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas Mark 7.  Remove the cling film from the trays of buns, brush the buns with beaten egg then bake for 8 - 10 minutes until deep golden brown.  We sprinkled a little caster sugar over the buns just before baking to give them a little more texture and make the tops sparkle.  The buns should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Scandinavian Julekage

Friday 12 December 2014
My daughters love to bake and Christmas time is the perfect time to indulge that passion.  We're always on the look out for new breads to try and at the suggestion of one of the Mums on the school run we attempted Scandinavian Julekage.  She gave me a basic idea of the recipe and we based ours on that, with a few adaptations due to lack of ingredients and me only remembering some of what she said due to baby induced sleep deprivation.  It took 3 attempts to develop a loaf I was happy with and I baked that several times just to make sure the recipe worked well.

Julekage (pronounced yoo-ley-key-yeh) is a popular Scandinavian Christmas fruit bread made from a dough enriched with butter and eggs.  The dough is filled with candied fruit, such as tropical fruit and cherries. and spiced with cardamom. We used cranberries in our bread as I'd run out of glace cherries.

The bread was enthusiastically devoured once I had taken photos and I've made two loaves since, one for us to devour, and another to the school Mum who suggested we make it.  I'm delighted to say it passed the taste test and she declared it to be delicious. 

Scandinavian Julekage

450g strong white bread flour
50g sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp fast action yeast
1/2 tsp freshly ground cardamom (you'll need seeds from around 15 pods)
80g butter, melted and cooled
2 free range eggs, beaten (I used large eggs)
150ml semi skimmed milk, lukewarm
150g dried tropical fruit
100g dried cranberries or roughly chopped glace cherries

75g icing sugar
1 Tblsp water, or more as needed

Combine the flour, sugar, salt, yeast, cardamom, milk, eggs and butter in a bowl.  mix until a soft dough forms. 

Either knead the dough on an unfloured surface or in a mixer until smooth and elastic, this took us about 10 - 12 minutes by hand.  Knead the fruit into the dough until well incorporated.  Cover the dough and leave to prove until doubled in size.

Line a 20cm (8 inch) cake tin with a double layer of non-stick baking paper, extending it 5cm (2 inches) above the top edge of the tin.  I used two disposable cake tin liners and made a collar from a double layer of non-stick baking paper.

Knead the dough again to knock it back.  Put the dough into your prepared cake tin, cover once again, then leave until the dough fills the tin and has almost reached the top of the tin.

Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas Mark 6.

Bake the loaf for 35 - 40 minutes.  Cover the top of the loaf with a sheet of greased non-stick baking paper after 20 minutes cooking time, this stops the top of the loaf from getting a little too golden brown (burnt).

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.  When you tap the loaf on the bottom it should sound hollow.  Make the icing and drizzle it over the top of the loaf, we sprinkled more dried fruit over the icing for a festive touch.

Festive Bread Wreath

Wednesday 10 December 2014
I decided to bake a couple of festive breads whilst bubs was asleep.  They turned out very well and my family devoured them as soon as they got home from work and school - luckily I managed to take photos earlier in the day!

This bread would make a great centrepiece for a festive gathering, a delicious gift idea for teachers or an impressive addition to a festive hamper.

Festive Bread Wreath

225g white bread flour
1 1/2 tsp fast action yeast
25g sugar
25g softened butter
1 free range egg, beaten
90ml semi skimmed milk, lukewarm

50g butter, softened
50g sugar
25g ground almonds
1 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
100g glace cherries, chopped
100g mixed dried fruit

Combine the bread ingredients in a bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer.  Mix until a soft dough forms.  Knead for 10 minutes, either by hand or in a mixer, until dough is smooth and elastic.  Put dough into a greased bowl, cover with greased cling film, and leave to prove until doubled in size.

To make the filling combine the butter, sugar and ground almonds to make a paste.  

Once the dough has proved, don't bother knocking it back just roll it out to a rectangle approximately 30cm x 23cm (12 inches x 9 inches).

Spread the filling paste over the dough then sprinkle over the cherries and dried fruit.  Roll the dough up tightly from the long edge and pinch the edge well to seal.  Gently roll the dough into a sausage shape until it measures approximately 50cm (20 inches) in length.

Use a sharp knife to cut the dough sausage down the middle lengthwise.  Turn the two pieces so the filling is facing upwards then plait the pieces together.  Bend the plait into a circle and ensure the ends are weaved together to form a wreath shape.

Cover and prove until doubled in size once again.  Preheat your oven to 200C/180C Fan/Gas Mark 6.  Bake the wreath for 20 minutes.  Once baked leave the wreath to cool on the tray for a few minutes then transfer it to a wire rack to cool completely.

Extra Veg December and January - Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

Monday 8 December 2014
The weather here in the UK has finally turned cold and there's nothing like a hot howl of soup to warm up a grim, cold and rainy day.  We've been having a small bowl of soup before dinner in the evenings which helps us get an extra portion of vegetables and also helps to temper our hunger as cold weather always seems to make us more hungry.

I love my slow cooker, it makes life so much easier - especially with a very young baby and three other children to look after.  Being able to load ingredients in and letting the slow cooker magically turn them into a delicious meal is a very welcome shortcut at the moment.

Slow Cooker French Onion Soup

500g white onions
25g butter
2 tsp light soft brown sugar
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 Tblsp flour
1 litre vegetable stock or beef stock, I use vegetable stock as my family prefer it

Peel and thinly slice your onions then add to the slow cooker with the butter and sugar.  Cook on low for 5 hours.  Add the garlic, flour and a little salt and pepper then mix well.

Pour in the stock and cook for another 4 hours.  Serve in bowls topped with cheese rolls or melted cheese on thick toast.

Extra Veg Blogging Challenge

This blogging challenge created by Helen and I encourages us all to add an extra portion of vegetables to meals.  Adding extra vegetables means that you get all the extra vitamins and nutrients from your veggies and it also fills you up so you eat less of the bad stuff.

To take part, simply blog about any recipe or idea where you eat an extra portion of vegetables.

There are a few rules:

Please link to the current host (ME!) and to Helen
Use the logo above
Tweet using #ExtraVeg
Closing date – 28th of January 2015
By entering you are agreeing to let us use an image from your entry on this site, and to pin to Pinterest.
Please be respectful of other people’s copyright

You could win a box of Extra Veg from Wholegood! 

Wholegood, an organic fruit and vegetable supplier in London, have offered the prize of one Uber Veg box for a randomly selected #ExtraVeg entry each month which will be selected via random.org.  Wholegood vegetable boxes can only be delivered to mainland UK addresses.  Contents of the veg box will change depending on season and availability.

Tell me about your ideas for extra veg on the linky below!

Chocolate Christmas Tree Biscuits and Mini Christmas Cakes - Waitrose #bakeitforward

Thursday 4 December 2014
When I received an email from Waitrose asking to take part in their Bake It Forward campaign I accepted without hesitation.  To take part all you need to do is bake something sweet to share with others during the season of goodwill ,share your share your photos on social media using the #BakeItForward hashtag and nominate them to do the same.

Every day Waitrose will be surprising people taking part with festive treats, including hampers and bottles of champagne.  Sharing baking and the possibility of being surprised with festive treats, what's not to like?!

We baked some Chocolate Christmas Tree Biscuits which are perfect for Christmas Fairs, Christmas parties and Christmas hampers.  We also iced some bite sized pieces of Christmas Cake which are great for teacher gifts.

Chocolate Christmas Trees

100g softened butter
100g caster sugar
2 Tblsp golden syrup or honey
2 tsp vanilla bean paste or extract
220g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
30g cocoa powder
100g dark/milk and white chocolate for decoration

Preheat your oven to 190C/170C Fan.  Line 2 baking sheets with non-stick baking paper.  

Cream the butter and sugar together well until pale and fluffy.  Add the golden syrup/honey and vanilla bean paste then beat again.  Add the flour, bicarb and cocoa then mix until a stiff dough forms.  

Knead the dough then roll out to 5mm thick on a floured surface.  Cut out shapes using cookie cutters and carefully transfer to your prepared trays.  Bake in the oven for 10 - 15 minutes.  Check after 10 minutes then every 2 minutes after that.  The biscuits should be slightly darker and fill the kitchen with a lovely chocolate aroma when they are cooked.

Transfer the biscuits to a wire rack to cool completely.  Sandwich the biscuits together with melted chocolate.  I used coffee stirrers from a well known chain as sticks but you can purchase cake pop sticks from a supermarket if you want. Put in the fridge until the chocolate has set.

Melt the white chocolate and drizzle over the biscuits then decorate how you wish.

The recipe makes 20 biscuits, enough for 10 completed trees.  These trees are fab individually wrapped and given as gifts, included in hampers of homemade goodies, or sold at a Christmas Fair.

Bite Sized Christmas Cakes

1.5 kg mixed dried fruit
125ml rum, whisky or brandy (use apple/orange juice for non-alcoholic version)
1 Tblsp golden syrup
220g light or dark brown sugar
250g butter, melted and cooled
4 free range eggs
225g plain flour
2 tsp mixed spice

Put the fruit in a large bowl, breaking up any large clumps.  Add the rum, golden syrup, sugar and eggs.  Mix well then add the melted butter, sifted flours and  mixed spice.  Mix until thoroughly combined.  

Pour the mixture into a deep 23cm round or deep 20cm square cake tin lined with three sheets of non-stick baking paper. Make sure the baking paper extends at least 1 inch/ 5cm above the top edge of the cake tin.  

Preheat your oven to 160C/140C Fan for about 3 ½ hours or until cooked when tested.  To test if the cake is done, insert a knife or skewer into the middle, it should come out clean with no crumbs sticking to it.  

Take the cake out of the oven, brush with a little extra run, whisky or brandy then set aside to cool completely.  Wrap well and store in an airtight container in a cool dark place until you are ready to eat it.  

This cake mixture can also be baked in empty baked bean/pulses tins or tuna tins.  A baked bean tin sized cake usually takes 45 - 50 minutes, a tuna tin sized cake usually takes 55 - 60 minutes.

We decorated ours with a layer of marzipan followed by a layer of sugarpaste and decorations.  I brushed the cakes with a little golden syrup to adhere the marzipan and sugarpaste layers to the cake bites.

* I was sent a hamper of baking goodies by Waitrose and was compensated for my time creating these recipes *
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