Sunday, 26 August 2012

Treats for the troops!

What on earth, I hear you cry!  Well, a while back I heard about a Mum (or was it an Aunt!) who baked homemade biscuits and cakes and sent them out to her son who was serving in Afghanistan.  They were such a hit that it sort of took off and requests were coming in by the bucket-load.

As I know a certain chap who is away over there at the moment and happens to have a birthday coming up, I thought I'd give it a go myself!

I have chosen recipes from the River Cottage Cakes Book, which features lots of biscuit recipes as well.  As they have an interesting journey to make, I went for recipes which should last a good few weeks in an air-tight container.  They are all very easy and quick to make and I found versions of all the recipes online to share with you.

Hazelnut macaroons x 2 bags

I am not sure how many will actually make it out of the house.  These are divine and super quick and simple to make.  They are also the least likely to travel well as they have a little chocolate in them, but I couldn't resist!

Christmas biscuits x 3 bags

Christmassy biscuits but without the icing in lots of different shapes.  Mental note buy more cookie cutters that aren't Christmassy - shame that, having to buy more :-) 

Anzac biscuits x 2 bags

Well these are bound to last, as they were the biscuits made by New Zealand and Australian wives, to send out by boat to their partners during the Second World War.  Very hearty and oaty.

Now I've just got to figure how in heck I'm going to package them up so they arrive intact!!! 
I wonder if the recipient will share.

Happy baking.......

Monday, 20 August 2012

Mary Berry's Chocolate Whoopie Pies!

I do like a good birthday excuse to get baking!  Yesterday I was sifting through my recipes that had been torn from magazines and came across these Whoopie Pies!  Now who can resist a name like that, especially as the Birthday Boy was my buddy Lucas who's turning 7 today!

The recipe says to whisk the butter, egg, sugar and soured cream with an electric hand-held whisk, but I chose to use the K beater attachment on my trusty Kenwood.  Instead of adding them all together, I creamed the butter and sugar first, then added the cream and then the egg.

Half the flour, cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda was sifted in and blended, before sifting in the remainder.  It all came together very nicely and was thick and smooth as suggested. 

My measuring, however, was a little slapdash!  You are meant to divide the mixture in half and then spoon 15 equal portions onto 2 lined baking trays.  Well I went for the guessing option....... Lets just say some of my Whoopies are 'Whooper Whoopies'!  I think using a quick release ice-cream scoop might be a good idea to get an even size.  I have heard people use these for cookie dough, etc.

I popped them into a pre-heated 160c fan oven for 15 minutes, switched the trays over in the oven and baked for another 4 minutes as they didn't look quite cooked.

They are supposed to be risen and firm to the touch and cracked a little in the middle!  Well mine sure are cracked!  Unique I think is a good description.

I then sandwiched them together with Nutella....... I know!!!  I altered a Mary Berry Recipe!  It was an inspired choice.  They were then topped with the icing sugar topping and adorned with chocolate sprinkles.

They were rather large, but tasted yummy, especially with the Nutella centre.  Enjoyed by adults and kids alike and really quick to make.

Now, you may have noticed the slight lack of photos!  OH has very kindly nabbed all the cameras for a kayaking trip, leaving me with an old dud camera for which I cannot find the USB lead to upload the rather terrible photos I took of my Whoopies.  Desperate measures meant me asking Lucas's Mum to take a photo of the Whoopies this morning - how sad am I!!  Hardly like the delightfully compact Mary Berry versions on the recipe link, but tasty nonetheless.

Can you guess which are mine??

Go on give them a go, even if just for the name!

Happy baking!

Saturday, 18 August 2012

Hairy Bikers Bakeation Challenge - France

OK, I confess, I have been a total 'Blog' slacker!  I made my French recipes last weekend, in fact the first time I made the bread was two weekends ago, but have I found the time to blog?  Oh no no no!  I blame the Olympics!  I got so addicted to watching the games that time flew by!

SO back to the baking.  Sadly neither of the recipes are available online yet, but I still had to share. 

My first offering is Provencal Bread.  Its made using a starter dough (quick version of a sourdough loaf), where yeast, white and rye bread flour, water and a little sugar are mixed together and left in the fridge for 24 hours.  This is the result, a nicely fermenting starter dough.

You then mix more white bread flour, more yeast, salt, water and half of the starter dough together until blended, before kneading for 10 minutes.  I started this off in the Kenwood and allowed the machine to knead it for 5 minutes, before placing it out on a floured surface and kneading for a further couple of minutes.  Then its popped back into its oiled bowl and left in a warm place for an hour to double in size.

Now you get to add the 'Provencal' bit!  The dough is eased onto a floured surface and gently knocked back with your knuckles.  Into the dough are then added fennel seeds, fresh thyme and rosemary, which are kneaded into the dough until evenly distributed.

The dough is then left for another hour to rise on a floured baking sheet before being scored.

And popped into a preheated 200c fan oven (220c static oven) for 25 minutes or until golden brown.

A really delicious loaf, great with cheese, soup or toasted with butter!   The remaining half of the starter dough can be frozen for up to a month and then defrosted over night before using for another loaf, which I duly did the following weekend.

The other recipe I tried were Madeleines.  A good excuse to go to Classy Cooks in Emsworth and get some new baking kit!  A madeleine tray, a bargain at £8.99.

A mix of just butter, an egg, castor sugar, plain flour and vanilla extract, it seems the trick to a good Madeleine is in the vigorous whisking of the egg, sugar and extract followed by very gently folding in the sifted flour, followed by the melted butter.  This creates a frothy mixture with lots of air bubbles.  The mixture is then (supposedly!) spooned evenly into each mould before baking in a 170c fan oven for 8 -10 minutes. 

I checked mine after 7 minutes and they were already golden, perhaps overly so.

They are left in the tin to cool for 5 minutes before turning out onto a wire rack.

And then dusted with icing sugar.

Dark, but delicious!  What better excuse to get out the fine china and enjoy Afternoon Tea and Madeleines in the garden with my Mum.  She approved!

Best enjoyed on the day of making to retain the crispness around the edges - as you only make 12 , that isn't difficult!  As you may have noticed only 11 made it into the photo shoot!  Bakers privilege!!

I've really enjoyed trying recipes from all the chapters of the Hairy Bikers Big Book of Baking and there are many more to try yet.  But for now, I think its time to bake something out of some of my many other trusty baking books.  But which to choose???

Happy baking!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

Finished Baby Shrug & Ravellenic Socks

Just a quickie post to share the finished little Baby Shrug I have made my Niece from the Debbie Bliss Simply Baby Book.

I used Lana Grossa Cinque yarn which is an aran-weight and the yardage is amazing.  It just keeps going.  I used 2 full 50g balls and then finished off the cuff ribbing with some double-knit yarn I had in a matching shade of purple (most of my stash consists of purple!).  It worked brilliantly.

The size made was 12 - 18 months and should keep her nice and cosy when it gets colder!

I've also just finished a little pair of socks for her (she is a brilliant little stash-buster) as my first entry in the Ravellenic Games for the Event Sockput and Event Baby Dressage.  For those of you not on Ravelry, I apologise if you wonder what on earth I'm talking about, but as its the Olympics, we Ravthletes are competing in different events for the glory of a Ravellenic Medal.  You Cast-on during the Opening Ceremony and then have until the Closing Ceremony to complete as many projects as possible.  Daft, but fun and very addictive.

At the moment I have picked up a hot water bottle cover that's been in my project bag for months....... its sure good for getting you motivated.

I need to get back to my baking, but I keep getting side-tracked by the Olympics!

Happy knitting!