Thursday, 19 September 2013

Hairy Bikers Skinny Lemon Cupcakes

In a bid to shoehorn myself into a nice frock for Goodwood Revival in 4 weeks time, I'm trying out some of the recipes from the Hairy Bikers 'The Hairy Dieters' Book.

They certainly don't scrimp on taste and so far we've enjoyed curries, cottage pie and chicken bakes. 
Tomorrow, I'm running a charity relay around Hayling Island with my running club, so felt I ought to bake for the team.  Any excuse!!!  So what better recipe to try, than their Skinny Lemon Cupcakes!

After deciding which of my many cupcake cases to use, it was on with the preparation.

The flour & bicarbonate of soda was sifted into a bowl and mixed with the sugar, blueberries & lemon zest.

You then beat the eggs in a separate bowl until smooth, followed by beating in the yoghurt, milk and sunflower oil.

Stir into the flour mixture until just combined.  You don't want to over-work the mixture.  Quickly divide the mixture into 12 paper cases.

I used a new cookie dough scoop I was given to put the mixture into the cases.  It made the job a lot easier and certainly was less messy!

I then baked mine on the centre shelf of a preheated 200c static oven for 12 minutes for the slightly smaller cupcakes and 14 minutes for the larger ones.  It was amazing how much they had risen in the oven.

Once cooled, I added the lemon icing and then tucked in!  Purely to make sure they were edible of course.....

Now, they were delicious at only 167 calories per cupcake and incredibly light.  My only advice would be to keep them in the fridge, as overnight the icing dissolved and sunk down the sides of the cases, making them very wet. 

Still the happy ending to the tale........ I got into the dress!  All kitted out 1950's style!!

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

A couple of handy tips

Erratic Internet connection make me a bad blogger of late, but I'd just thought I'd fill you in on a couple of handy tips I picked up a couple of weekends back.

I was making a bit of Afternoon Tea for my running buddy and her daughter, which we enjoyed in the garden on another scorching hot day.  This time I cheated slightly and used some of the scones I had made for this spread from Mary Berry's Baking Bible

The recipe made about 25 scones, so I had frozen a load.  As suggested by my Mum, I took the required amount out of the freezer and left them to defrost.  Just before they were required, I popped about 8 on a plate and pinged them in the microwave on high for 20 seconds.  They were perfectly refreshed and delicious with clotted cream and homemade blackcurrant & gooseberry jam.

I also made another batch of Mary's Lavender Biscuits.  I baked up half the amount of biscuit dough and put the other half in the freezer (wrapped in baking parchment and then in a freezer bag )for another tea party, all ready to slice and bake.  I plan to try the biscuit recipe with some freeze-dried raspberries instead of the lavender, but more on that another time.

Some lemon cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook and a lemon & poppy seed cake from The Bodyfoods Cookbook topped it all off with a nice cuppa tea!

According to the Hummingbird blog, cupcakes with fruit, fruit puree or juice in them never rise as much as those that don't.  A handy tip to know.  All the more excuse to put added frosting on top.

Happy baking!

Sunday, 21 July 2013

A Spot of Cream Tea and a Few Extras

So what do you do to mark the arrival of the hottest summer in seven years........ have some Afternoon Tea of course.  A tad hot in the garden, but as most of it was flower or fruit based, sitting outside it had to be!

I made some cute little bite-sized jam tarts filled with either lime curd or blackcurrant jam from a recipe I wrote out years ago. 

Then I turned to the Queen of Cakes and consulted Mary Berry's 'Baking Bible'.   First up were some Lavender Biscuits made from some freshly harvested fragrant flowers.  A simple biscuit to make and the aroma was divine.  Eat within a couple of days if you want them crisp.  Still tasty later, but they become softer.

Next up, I had a go at one of my 'Never Tried Before' bakes - Scones!  I know, so simple (but so much can go wrong!!).  Mary walked me through it with lots of helpful tips...... keep the dough sticky - it will achieve a better rise, do not twist the cutter when you are cutting out - twisting could cause an uneven rise, dip the cutter in flour regularly whilst cutting out - stops the cutter sticking to the dough.

I was surprised by the texture of the dough, sticky and quite holey, but the rise was good and consistent.  I only made small scones, as it was for an afternoon tea.  Served with Cornish Clotted Cream and a Strawberry Compote I made from Strawbs from our allotment.  Wash the strawberries and pop in a pan with some vanilla sugar.  Cover and reduce slowly over a low heat.  No need for extra water in the pan - they should be juicy enough.  Delicious.

Finally I made one of my old fav's for this time of year.  The onset of courgette glut signals copious amounts of Jamie Oliver's Courgette Carbonara in our house.  But for the first of the courgette harvest, I just had to make Nigella's Courgette Cake.  It comes from Nigella's 'How To Be a Domestic Goddess' Book.  Other than my Winnie The Pooh Cookbook (which has my go-to flapjack recipe in it), Nigella must have been my first ever baking book.  I've been baking her courgette cake ever since we got an allotment.  Never before, have I bothered with the icing, as we are always in too much of a rush to eat it - filled with lime curd, its moist and utterly divine.  But for this special tea, I thought I'd give the topping a go.  It was delicious, with a limey zing.

I confess, I never usually bother with the raisins and just add extra courgettes.  Its a winner every time, so give it a go, you won't be disappointed.  Summer is here!

Happy Baking!

Saturday, 13 July 2013

Me, My Socks and More Socks!

Now as you may have noticed, I do like knitting a good sock pattern.  This year I'm taking part in the UK Sock Knitters Group Lunar themed Knit-a-long.  My plan at the start of the challenge was to knit only from yarn or patterns I already owned.  So far, so good!

Different lunar cycles have many names around the world, so we had a bit of choice to be going on with.  Each pattern can be cast-on from its start date (Full Moon), but no later than by the start date of the following Full Moon.  Completions of all socks should be by 31st January 2014 to fulfil the challenge.

28-Dec-12 Cold Winter Birch
27-Jan-13 Wolf Ice Rowan
25-Feb-13 Storm Candles Ash
27-Mar-13 Worm Hare Sugar
25-Apr-13 Pink Seed Fish
25-May-13 Flower Dragon Milk
23-Jun-13 Mead Rose Strawberry
22-Jul-13 Thunder Herb Hay
21-Aug-13 Barley Red Blue
19-Sep-13 Harvest Fruit Chrysanthemum
18-Oct-13 Hunter Blood Blackberry
17-Nov-13 Beaver Snow Tree
17-Dec-13 Oak Frost Bitter

So far, I've managed to complete 4 pairs, have 2 pairs on the needles for the Seed and Dragon Moons and am dyeing the yarn for the Strawberry Moon in between typing!

For the Birch Moon, I made Birch Socks and I've kept them for me!

For the Ice Moon, I made Icicle Socks and again they're all mine!

For the Storm Moon, I chose Wavy Socks.  Well you get waves in a storm right!  They are destined for my Xmas present box.

And finally for the Sugar Moon, I offer my Sugared Almonds, also for the Xmas box.

Best get back to the dyeing and knitting!  I got a lotta socks to knit.

Happy knitting!

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Disappearing Nine Patch Cupcake Cot Quilt

Back in March my Mum and I enjoyed a great little Patchwork & Quilting Workshop at the Brighton Sewing Centre.  It was open to all abilities and a bargain at £20 for 4 hours. 

I had bought the cupcake fabric from them the previous year, when I went to the shop to get advice and to buy a new sewing machine.  The girls were so helpful on which model to buy and I love my Janome TXL 607.

We already have some experience at patchwork, but its always good to pick up new tips. We both decided on the Disappearing Nine Patch Block and were amazed at how simple an idea can be so effective.

Basically you piece and sew 9 equal size squares together and then cut up and then across the middle of the nine patch block.  The four cut pieces are then re-sewn to create a new pattern. 

I decided to turn this into a cot quilt for my niece, Ellie, as we are both fans of cupcakes!  I gave it a simple white inner border, using complementing squares in pink and purple and then used the spotty turquoise fabric for the outer border, which I folded and hand-sewed onto the backing fabric.

I'm really chuffed with the backing fabric, which I found on sale in the children's section of Laura Ashley.  I think it makes a great reversible quilt, but then I am biased!

To speed up the quilting process, we found out about the use of 505 Fabric Adhesive at Cowslips Workshops (more on that weekend in the next blogpost!).  You spray your wadding (the middle of the quilt) and lay your backing fabric on and smooth out any creases.  Then turn the quilt over, spray the other side of the wadding and lay down your quilt top and smooth out.  This saves hours of tacking the 3 layers together and means you can get straight on with the quilting part of the quilt.

I hope she likes it!

Now I just need to crack on with a Daisy Quilt I started at Cowslip Workshops a couple of weekends back.  Here's a sneak preview.......

Happy sewing!

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Vanilla Sugar Cookies - The Pink Whisk

Boy am I starting to get a collection of baking utensils and decorating tools.  A new sideboard in our kitchen has been filled with just pretty much these things.  Perhaps my new baking challenge should be to use each item??  But no!  I've decided to compile a list of all the baked items I've never tried making before and give them a go.  Get me out of my comfort zone a bit.

So far we've got:-
Decorated biscuits - a simple start
Homemade puff pastry

That's without even consulting the library of baking books, so I'm sure the list will increase.  Any suggestions gratefully received.

I thought I'd have a play with some of my decorating tools and chose the Vanilla Sugar Cookies from The Pink Whisks 'The Busy Girls Guide to Cake Decorating' as a base biscuit.  The recipe makes a lot of dough, so I used half and put half in the freezer.  Wrapped in clingfilm, it can last up to 3 months.

The dough is rolled out between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper and then chilled for 30 minutes before cutting out the shapes.


Then chill again for 15 minutes.  This helps the biscuits hold their shape in the oven.  I baked in a 180C static oven with 8 minutes for smaller cookies and 9 minutes for larger cookies.

Re-chill the dough between each rolling out as the dough softens fast and the shapes don't hold firm when cutting them out.


The online recipe does suggest vanilla paste, but the book gives 5ml of vanilla extract as an alternative.  That's what I went with.

Now the first batch never even made it to the decorating stage - I warn you they are a bit moorish!  The second half of the dough was whipped out the freezer and baked the next day.

Once cooled you then get to the fun part.  The making up stage!  Here's some of the tools I used.

I used fondant icing for the decorations this time.  The purple has some Dr Oetker gel colouring kneaded into the white fondant icing.  You just keep adding drops of it, until you have the colour you require.  I didn't glue the icing on.  A soft push on the top seemed to adhere it to the biscuit.

Some of my final offerings.

I can't wait to get a bit more inventive, but these were a start!  Do you like my new cake tin - a cheeky birthday present from friends :-)

Some more practise on the biscuits I think, then decide what else to make from my new baking challenge list!

Happy baking!

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Baking Cakes from Mary Berry's Baking Bible

Last Sunday it was World Baking Day, so what better excuse to try a recipe from my newly acquired copy of Mary Berry's Baking Bible.  She is, after all, the Queen of Baking!

An excess of carrots made the choice of cake quite easy and I chose her Carrot Cake from the Classic Cakes chapter.  Its a really simple All-in-One cake mix, where all the ingredients for the batter are beaten thoroughly by hand or as I chose, using my Kenwood KMix.  A mix of carrots, walnuts and mashed banana make for a really tasty, moist cake.

The topping is made from full fat soft cheese, butter and icing sugar.  A first for me and helped the cake stay extra moist.  You have to keep this one in the fridge, due to the icing but it lasts a good few days. 

Yesterday, I then felt the urge to try Mary's Lemon Yoghurt Cake, also from the Classic Cakes chapter.  I had all the ingredients already, so it seemed like a good excuse to get baking.  This recipe required the sugar, butter and egg yolks to be beaten first, before adding in the yoghurt and lemon rind.  Folding in the flour is best done with a metal spoon, to cut through the mixture, thus loosing as little air as possible.  Whipped egg whites are the last to be carefully added before popping the mixture into a preheated oven  I baked mine in a 175c static oven for 52 minutes.  The recipe states 1-1 1/4 hours, but as its described as a moist cake and the knife came out clean, I didn't bake any longer.

Please excuse the ridges on the sides of my cakes, but I always cheat and use Lakeland's
cake tin liners, rather than grease and line tins.

Once cooled, a simple icing of icing sugar and lemon juice was drizzled over the top.  No doubt this would be lovely with some yoghurt and raspberries as a dessert, but is just as nice on its own.

My dilemma now, is I feel I need a new baking challenge.  Similar to my Hairy Bikers Bakeation challenge last year, to bake a recipe from each chapter of the book.  But do I choose just one book to work from (I have seen a few blogs that aim to bake every recipe from Mary Berry's Baking Bible - now that's a challenge!!) or should I pick a new recipe to try from every baking book I own.  Ohhhhh the dilemma!!

I think I need some serious coffee-drinking sessions with lots of perusing through baking books to decide!

Happy baking!

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Jo Wheatley's Vanilla Birthday Cake

It seems if you want to make a very well received birthday cake in a limited amount of time, Jo Wheatley's Vanilla Birthday Cake from her 'A Passion for Baking' Book' is just the ticket!  (Currently just £5 at Sainsbury's - an absolute bargain!!)  Its similar to this one but the recipe in the book creams the sugar and softened butter first, before adding the remaining ingredients.

I baked mine in a preheated static 180c oven for 24 minutes and instead of using strawberry jam, I used lashings of blackcurrant jam to sandwich it together.  I found the blackcurrant jam helped cut into the sweetness of the butter cream icing and filling.  Ideally, make the cake the day before, as it really seems to improve in moistness and flavour.

The first time I made it was actually for Mothers Day. 

I reserved some of the butter cream and added some purple food colouring, then piped on the flowers.

The second (and by no means last!) attempt was for OH's birthday and was a real dash to make it without him knowing.  Hence the slap-dash decoration.  Still equally tasty though!
Apparently described by work colleagues as 'the best cake ever', one lady who doesn't even bake wants to give it a go.  So, go on, try it, I urge you - you won't be disappointed!
Happy baking!

Sunday, 28 April 2013

Icicle Socks and a rather funky new hat!

Sometimes there's just never enough time to fit everything in - well that's my excuse for tardy blogging anyway!

I have, of course, found some spare knitty time and have managed to finish 2 lovely projects I had on the go.

The first was my pair of Icicle Socks for the UK Sock Knitters Lunar themed KAL on Ravelry.

I dyed the yarn with 3 packets of Berry Blue Koolaid to create a stripy effect.  They do have 2 rows of beads at the top which is hard to see.  It was my first attempt at knitting with beads, using a minuscule crochet hook to attach them to the yarn.  Fiddly, but addictive!

My other project was a lovely warm and soft Kathleen hat in soft merino aran weight yarn.

I need to get it a little more slouchy and perhaps finishing it before it started getting warmer would have been wise!  Oh well!

Whilst hanging out the washing, it dawned on me quite how many hand knit socks I have.......... and that doesn't include the ones made as gifts!!!  Or the third row you can't see :-)

Happy knitting!

For more Finished Object Friday posts head over to Tami Ami's Blog.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Raggy Jo's Summer House Picture Quilt

Way back in March of last year I went down to the lovely Cowslip Workshops, just outside Launceston in Cornwall, for an applique weekend.  The project in hand was a little picture quilt that could be used as a wall hanging and the technique was needle-turn applique.

As you can see I came back home with a good start on the quilt.

Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, my little quilt sat unloved and not worked on for quite a while. 

Not so any more!  I've finally got around to finishing off the picture, adding the wadding and backing fabric and putting on a nice edge.  I'm really pleased with it and it will take pride of place on the wall in our spare room.

Last Sunday, my Mum and I took the train to Brighton and spent a lovely 4 hours at the Brighton Sewing Centre doing a Patchwork & Quilting workshop, run by the lovely Liz.  You had a choice of simple designs to try, which could be made into a cushion or enlarged into a quilt. 

We opted to have a go at a 'Disappearing Nine Patch Block'.  You take 9 equal squares and sew them together as shown at the bottom of the photo.  By then cleverly cutting this block into 4 pieces and re-sewing, you create a totally new pattern.

I've had the cupcake fabric for a while and couldn't quite make my mind up what to do with it.  Its going to make a fantastically bright lap / cot quilt that I plan to give away........ if I can bare to part with it!

Happy sewing!

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

A Mothers Day Afternoon Tea

A very unsubtle suggestion by my Mum, that a Mothers Day Afternoon Tea would be just the ticket was a great excuse to scour the baking books for ideas.  In case you hadn't noticed, I'm on a bit of a 'Jo Wheatley - Passion for Baking' frenzy at the moment and seem to be working my way through her book with glee.  More on that shortly! 

OK, so this isn't actually baking (apart from the homemade bread toasts it sits on!), but I had to share this Chicken Liver Pate recipe from Waitrose.  Its really quick and easy to make and I substitute the sherry for brandy as we normally have that in the cupboard for cooking.  I also got some locally caught and smoked trout and the plan was to make little pinwheel sandwiches.  Not everything went to plan as my Sleepless White Bread decided to go horizontal on the baking sheet, rather than rise up.  Normally I make 3 loaves out of a 1kg batch, but this time opted for 2 loaves.  No matter, I just sliced the lovely crusts off and saved them for making breadcrumbs.  With the inners of the loaf, I cut out little discs and toasted them under the grill and topped with either pate or trout.  Tasty little morsels they were too!

We also had little chocolate peanut crispies topped with micro mini eggs from Jo's book and the main event was a Vanilla Cake (also a Jo recipe!!).

Its a delicious Victoria sponge style cake filled with a vanilla buttercream and homemade blackcurrant jam from my friend Jane. 

I then had fun with some leftover buttercream, to which I added some purple colouring and piped little flowers over the top and a few on the side.

Then it was time to set the table with some lovely antique crockery I received from lovely friend Cathy at Christmas and adorn with tasty goodies.

Quite delicious and the cake was even better the next day.

Happy baking!

Monday, 4 March 2013

Hampshire Watercress Tart

Around Hampshire, we are lucky enough to have the Hampshire Farmers Market Group run Farmers Markets all over Hampshire throughout the year.  January should have seen the first ever market in Emsworth, but rather a lot of snow put the kibosh on that one.  Thankfully February was a much better month and a good show of over 20 stalls plus lots of visitors / shoppers made it a worthy kick-off.

Amongst the stallholders was Maple Leaf Watercress, who supply lovely local bunched watercress.  I needed something to make for a Saturday lunch, so buying 3 bunches of watercress was just the excuse required to try a Watercress Tart.  I'd torn the recipe out of You magazine ages ago.

A top Mary Berry tip is to take the base of your tart tin and lay in on the work surface.  Lightly flour, then place your pre-made ball of shortcrust pastry in the centre. 


As you roll out the pastry you are able to see whether it is the right size, rather than lifting it up and down and placing it in the tin.  Once it looks the right size, pop it in the tin and fork over the base.


I tried to be clever this time, to prevent the sides from shrinking during the blind bake and decided not to trim the edges until after.  You place some tin foil in the base and add baking beans to weight it down.  Bake for 15 minutes in a static 200c oven.  Remove the foil, lightly brush with egg white and bake again for another 10 minutes until lightly coloured.  What I should have done, was removed the trimmings after removing the foil.  Leaving it until after the second bake, the pastry was getting more brittle.  No worries, but I'll know for next time - it just looked more rustic this way!

Add the filling, sprinkle the extra cheese and spring onions on and pop back in the over for 35-40 minutes.

The end result was a little dark, due to the sprinkled cheese and I had to cover it for the last 10 minutes of baking to stop it burning, but don't let the colour put you off - it tasted delicious.  A delectable mix of watercress and Gruyere cheese.

We ate it slightly warm, but it was even more tasty the next day cold.

I now have baking to plan for a Comic Relief Bake Sale and then Mothers Day.  Oh decisions, decisions!

Happy baking!