Friday, 28 June 2013

Deep Filled Apple Pie

My dh and ds returned from a trip to the Lake District last week. They had a wonderful week camping, walking and eating. One of the places they found sold a wonderful apple pie (so they told me) and it was aptly named The Apple Pie. Hearing them talk about this apple pie fresh from the oven, it made me want to make my own. My mum used to make a rectangular apple pie that we used to slice up into squares and that's what I based mine on. I peeled and cubed 5 bramley apples, put them in a saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water and a sprinkling of caster sugar. I popped the lid on, placed the saucepan over a medium heat and let the apples cook down. Bramley apples can be quite sour so make sure you taste the apples to see if you need to add any extra sugar.

I left the apples to cool and made the pastry. I measured out 225g of self raising flour, rubbed in 110g marg and a handful of sugar. I then added a beaten egg and enough water to make a dough. I should have left the pastry to rest at this point but I didn't have time so I divided it into two and rolled out the bottom, lined the baking tin, filled it with apples and added the lid. I had some pastry left over so I made some hearts to put on the top. I put some water on them so they stuck. I then baked in an oven preheated to 180 degrees centigrade for about half an hour.

Here's the finished pie sprinkled with caster sugar and here's a slice ready to be eaten (and still warm from the oven) - yummy.

It's been a crazy couple of weeks at work (two proms as it's that time of year, preparing for a changing role and keeping up to date with my day job including preparing students for their GCSEs and A levels) and busy at home (ds's prom and dd's exams) which has left me feeling completely exhausted (hence the lack of sewing posts). This apple pie has kept us going all week - it's great as a pick me up at the end of a busy day. A slice popped into the microwave for 40 seconds has helped to keep my spirits up. I hope you all have a lovely weekend spending time with the ones you love. Me, I'll be catching up on my sleep.

I've just joined in with Handmade Monday - there are some lovely blogs that you can visit.

Handmade Harbour

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Best Flapjack Recipe

For years, I tried to make flapjacks but they were either too dry or too soggy. I never seemed to get it right no matter how many times I tried or how many different recipes I tested. I have a friend from university who makes flapjack and seems to get it right every time and I never heard the end of it from my children. They were constantly asking why I couldn't make flapjack like her and could they go and visit her (a two hour drive away). Luckily, I found a recipe that worked about two years ago and now they ask for my flapjacks (phew). This recipe works every time and I always get positive comments. So if you've been having trouble with getting your oats to stick together or your flapjack felt like sawdust in your mouth, this is the recipe for you. I always make a double batch for the week as my DS uses them as his energy fuel but this is the recipe for one batch.

Melt 175g of butter or marg (I used Pure margerine) in a saucepan. Add
2tbsp golden syrup
175g Demerara sugar

Melt over a medium heat and stir well. Remove from the heat and add 225g of rolled oats. I sometimes find that this isn't enough oats and so I add a bit more. This time I added some sultanas and dried cranberries. Spoon to mixture into a baking tin and spread it out evenly. Place the baking tin in an oven heated to 170 degrees centigrade and cook for 15 minutes until the oats are golden brown. Remove from the oven and mark into slices. Leave to cool completely before placing in an air tight container.

Monday, 17 June 2013

A Bag of Cherries

When I was in London at the weekend, I was wondering down Berwick Street past a number of fruit and veg stalls. At the first stall, they were selling fresh cherries for £3 a pound but at the second stall the price had gone down to £1.50. I thought that this was a bargain so bought some. Little did I know, but of course I should have guessed, that these cherries were moving towards the overripe stage. Now, I love fresh cherries and usually eat them all in one sitting but these were moving past their best. I decided to pit them all and then have a little search around the internet to find a recipe that I could use them in.

After a quick search, I hadn't come up with anything that took my fancy so I started looking through my cookery books at home and as you know, I have a lot. 10 minutes later, still no inspiration. And then I thought to myself, why don't I just make a victoria sponge batter and add the cherries to it. So that's what I did. I put the following ingredients in the food mixer and blended.

225g marg or butter
225g caster sugar
225g self raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs (the recipe called for large but I only had medium)

I then added a bit of water until the mixture reached dropping consistency. I tend to add water rather than milk just in case I serve the cake up to someone with a lactose intolerance. I then divided the mixture evenly between two greased and lined 20cm round tins. I put the cherries on top and then sprinkled some demerara sugar over the cherries. Here is the batter before being put into the oven.

I then baked the cakes for 25 minutes in an oven preheated to 180 degrees centigrade. I checked the cakes after 20 minutes but they still needed 5 minutes more. It's really important that you don't check before 20 minutes as the cakes will just sink. When I took them out of the oven, the cherries were no longer on the top of the cake. I decided to try a slice (as this was the first time I had made a cherry cake) and it was delicious. I can highly recommend it - why not give it a try.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Day out in London

I had a lovely day yesterday although the weather wasn't great. I spent the morning at The Autism Show, gaining knowledge and resources for my new role and then I had a bit of time to wander around central London. I didn't spend very much but I just like to walk around London, finding new places and revisiting old favourites.

I had a really tasty lunch in Borough Market. Although I had to shelter from the rain and protect my lunch from getting too soggy, it was delicious. There is a stand near to Southwark Cathedral that sells filled rolls and I had the veggie special, filled to the brim with cooked halloumi, salad and dressings - scrumptious. I then wandered off to have a look at the fabric shops in Berwick Street, Soho. On the w
ay, I came across the Shard. I didn't realise I was so close until I looked up and there it was. Don't you just love the juxtaposition of old and new in this photo.

Fast forward half an hour and I checked out the Royal Academy of Art on Piccadily

via the Jubilee line

walked down Savile Row checking out all the made to measure shops. There were some gorgeous suits and shirts on display.

I ended up on Berwick Street and checked out the fabric shops. The fabric was expensive but it was nice to have a wander around. There were some lovely displays

Don't you just love the haberdashery on display. Shame that the prices were completely out of my league. I then wandered over to Trafalgar Square and as it was still raining I decided to pop into the National Gallery. Whenever I'm up in London with the family, no-one wants to visit the gallery with me so I decided to take some me time.

It was really busy but I still managed to see a Monet and Canaletto (even when you look closely at his paintings, you can pick out the features on the tiny characters - impressive). By this time, I was exhausted so I decided to take a bus back to the train station. It passed the South Bank and I saw these sculptures on the way by the Hayward Gallery - can you tell I was taking the photo through a rain splattered window?

London may have been busy but it makes my heart soar every time I cross the river and see Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament looking one way and St Paul's Cathedral and the buildings of the city looking the other. Can you tell I'm a London girl at heart.

I hope you're all having a great day.

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Thank You Baking


I've had the greatest week professionally. I had the opportunity to become involved in a leadership carousel so I spent the week working at a different school. The staff and students welcomed me with open arms and made me feel like a part of their team. I learnt new skills and saw new ideas - all in all, I got my mojo back. So, on the last day (yesterday) I really wanted to say thank you to everyone so I made some fairy cakes and Cornish fairings (biscuits). Here are the recipes...

Fairy Cakes (based on Nigella Lawson's recipe)

125g marg or butter
125g caster sugar
125g self raising flour (I ran out part way through so had to use some plain flour with a bit of baking powder)
2 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsps water 

Put everything except the water in the food processor and mix well. Add enough water to reach dropping consistency. Spoon into 12 muffin cases and bake at 200 degrees centigrade for 15 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool completely then ice. I just used plain glace icing made with icing sugar and water. I even used icing that I had freezed and it worked. I made two batches of the fairy cakes to take in for staff and they seemed to be appreciated. By breaktime, they had completely disappeared - there wasn't even a wrapper in sight. 

Yesterday, I woke up before 6am and I couldn't get back to sleep. I don't know why but I decided it would be a good idea to make individual cookies for the team I had been working with all week. They had been really supportive and gave up their time to help me. I used the Cornish Fairings recipe from the River Cottage Handbook on Cakes. It worked a treat. I hadn't made it before and I was really pleased with how it worked out (again I doubled the mixture and made 12 cookies - 2 for each person).

125g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
1/2tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground mixed spice
50g caster sugar
50g butter or marg
2 tbsp golden syrup

Put the first 5 ingredients in a bowl, mix well and add the sugar. Add the butter and rub in so the the mixture looks like breadcrumbs. Add the golden syrup and bring the mixture together to form a smooth dough. Form into 6 large walnut sized pieces and place on a baking tray with enough room to spread (and they really spread - I put 4 on each baking tray). Flatten slightly with the back of a fork.

Cook at 200 degrees centigrade for 6-7 minutes. You need to keep a really close eye on the time as you don't want to over bake these. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes, then transfer to a wire cooling rack. This is what they will look like - yummy.

I packaged them up, two in each packet, as a thank you which seemed to be well received.

I want to say a big thank you to all the staff and students for looking after me so well all week. I'm looking forward to working with them again and I know I'll really miss them. Now, off to some extra training in London today (on a Saturday I hear you all cry!) so no baking today. I hope you all have a lovely day.

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Birthday Brownies

Today was a big day - my dad reached a very special age. I had booked a local Italian restaurant months ago - Da Gennaro in Guildford. This is a family run restaurant and they couldn't have been more helpful. They allowed us to decorate the table before everyone arrived. I decided to make chocolate brownies for everyone as a going home present and we sprinkled the table with stars and laid out straws, cocktail stirrers and umbrellas for everyone. These were particularly enjoyed by my nieces and nephews. My nieces decided to collect up all the cocktail umbrellas and take them home with them, along with the doilies from the desserts which they then got all crafty with.

So, back to this morning. As it was a Saturday and I therefore had time for a lie in, my body decided to wake up just before 6am! As I was awake anyway, I got up to bake the brownies. I used my favourite recipe from The Little Red Barn Baking Book. I don't think you can buy this new anymore but there seem to be a number of pre loved copies available on Amazon. Here is the recipe:

110g plain chocolate (high cocoa content)
90g plain chocolate (chopped)
110g butter or margerine
155g plain flour
150g dark brown sugar
150g caster sugar
1tsp vanilla essence
1/4 tsp salt
2 eggs

Put the 110g chocolate and the butter in a bowl suitable for the microwave. Place in the microwave on defrost for 5 minutes. Stir and then microwave on defrost for another minute. Add both sugars and stir in well. Add the eggs one at a time and beat until glossy (at this point my DS took over the beating to make sure the mixture was smooth). Add the vanilla extract and stir in. Add the plain flour and salt and stir in carefully trying not to add too many air bubbles. This is what it looked like..

I doubled the mixture to make sure I had enough brownies. This amount makes 50 small brownies.

Spoon into a square baking tin, level the surface then bake at 170 degrees centigrade for 20-25 minutes. Be careful not to over bake. I cut them into squares when they had cooled slightly and then packaged them up - 4 brownies per person.

I added a label to each and some shiny wrapping ribbon and here is the end result.

We had a really lovely birthday lunch and everyone had a present to take home afterwards. So Happy Birthday to a wonderful, amazing dad.

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

St. Clement's Cake

I love baking using Nigella Lawson's recipes. In particular, the recipes in How to be a Domestic Goddess. I have a well thumbed copy and have tried a number of the recipes over the years. I love her lemon drizzle cake and decided it was time to do some baking at the weekend. I had some oranges that needed using up but I had already used the orange rind so I decided to use lemon rind instead, hence the St. Clement's element.

Here is the recipe...

125g marg or butter
175g caster sugar
Grated rind of 1 lemon 
2 eggs
175g self raising flour
Pinch of salt

Cream the marg and sugar, add the eggs and lemon rind and beat well. Add the flour and enough water or milk to make a dropping consistency. I added water as I was making the cake for colleagues at work and one of them is lactose intolerant. I also used pure margarine which has no dairy products in it. 

Line a loaf tin and spoon the mixture in. Bake in an oven pre heated to 180 degrees centigrade for 45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. 

While the cake is baking, mix 4 tablespoons of orange and/or lemon juice (I used both) with 100g icing sugar in a saucepan and heat gently until the icing sugar dissolves. 

Once the cake is out of the oven, skewer all over and pour the syrup over and leave to soak in. 

Allow to cool completely. I made double the mixture so I ended up with two cakes. Both are now in the freezer (they freeze beautifully) ready for cake Friday.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Granola for a healthy breakfast

I'm trying to have a healthier start in the morning. During the holidays, I've been having toast with homemade jam and fresh strawberries - yummy, but not particularly healthy. So, I decided to make some granola. I couldn't remember where I found the recipe I used last time so I decided to google one and this is what I came up with. I'm always worried about the amount of fat and sugar that goes into a granola but this recipe didn't seem too bad. This was the original recipe:

4 cups of rolled oats
2 cups of nuts and seeds
1 cup of dried fruit
1/2 a cup of sweetener
1/2 a cup of oil
pinch of salt

Place the oil and sweetener into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, mix together the oats and chopped nuts with a pinch of salt. Mix the liquid with the dry ingredients and spread out onto a baking tray. Bake at 180 degrees centigrade for 30 minutes, turning every 10 minutes. Leave to cool, mix in the chopped dried fruit, then place in a air tight container.

I decided to tweak the recipe slightly. I used honey from a jar I found tucked at the back of the cupboard. I had to microwave it (without the lid on of course) as much of the honey had crystallised and turned solid. I also only used 1 cup of nuts. I had a basket of nuts left over from Christmas so I cracked most of those open and then found a bag of fruit and nut (in the back of another cupboard) which had just reached its sell by date. This is the end result

I'm planning on eating this for breakfast with yoghurt, fresh strawberries and blueberries. I'm hoping this will work as a slow release food so I won't need to reach for the flapjack mid morning. I don't know about you, but I have a terrible time persuading the rest of my family that this is a healthy start to the day so this batch of granola will probably last me quite a while.

Update - I was featured on The Crafty Blog Stalker so now even more people can make some healthy breakfast.

by The Crafty Blog Stalker

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Grape Cake

I bought a punnet of grapes from the supermarket last week. Both my children like red grapes so I thought it was a safe bet. When I got them home we soon realised that they weren't the tastiest of grapes so they've been sitting on the side since then. I hate to throw food out so I decided to google cooking with grapes this morning and is stumbled on this recipe which looked really easy (it's currently baking in the oven so the true test will be in half an hour). I found the recipe on this New Zealand website. I started to get the ingredients ready and was reaching for the butter when I realised it doesn't have any in the recipe. Could this be too good to be true? Here's the recipe....

2 eggs
Three quarters cup caster sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
Rind and juice of one lemon

Beat all the ingredients together until the mixture thickens. My mixture didn't seem to get very thick. Then add one and a half cups of self raising flour. Fold in gently and add 500g seedless grapes. I just added the grapes I had left. Spoon into a greased and lined 20cm round baking tin and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes at 180 degrees centigrade.

Just before I made the cake, I finished off the pretzels that I had started making yesterday evening. I divided the dough into 8 pieces, rolled each piece into a tube and then shaped into a pretzel shape. This is how they turned out

I then left them to rise again and then covered em in egg wash and sprinkled them with sesame seeds.

Finally, I baked them for 15 minutes. By this stage they had lost any resemblance to pretzels so I guess this will be a case of practice makes perfect.

I left the oven on to bake the grape cake and here is the finished cake, dusted with icing sugar.

And with a slice taken out so you can just about see the grapes inside.

It's a surprisingly tasty cake as it has no fat in it - definitely worth making again.