Thursday, 30 December 2010

Christmas Breads, a Christmas Story & special present

I made some tear and share breads on Boxing Day. At the moment, I'm still at my parents' house in Scotland with Oliver - but we fly back tomorrow. It's fair to say that this has been an eventful trip !

We were due to fly up early on the morning of Christmas Eve. I woke Oliver at 6am and got him ready. My husband and I had our bags packed from the night before, ready to leave first thing that morning. On the realisation that we were about to fly to Scotland and Santa was on his way, Oliver was rather excited to say the least. "Oliver go to Nanny's. Oliver go to Nanny's on plane ! Oliver go now to Nanny's !" he chanted all the way to the airport.

At the last set of traffic lights just before the entrance to the airport, realisation dawned. Steve had forgotten to bring his wallet containing his ID and we were not going to be able to fly without it. Damn and blast ! There was no option but to turn tail and go home for his wallet.... Perhaps Oliver wasn't going to Nanny's and maybe Santa would not come :-(

The roads were really icy and slippy and the return trip home simply took too long. It was impossible to get back to the airport to make the flight - so the only alternative was to make the journey by car.... Approx 8 hours drive versus 1.1/4 hours by plane.

I must say - I really thought such a long car journey would be an absolute nightmare with a toddler.... but Oliver was good as gold the whole way and kept checking whith us that we WERE going to Nanny's.

On Boxing Day, I decided to make some tear and share bread for everyone as a treat... Most especially as I fancied something yummy ! We were meant to go to my aunt and uncle's for Christmas dinner with the rest of the family the previous day, but things didn't exactly work out to plan. Oliver had taken rather poorly again on Christmas eve with fever and vomitting which continued right through Christmas day (and beyond). Thankfully, he was bright enough early in the morning for an hour of opening presents from Santa

My husband and I stayed with Oliver at my parents and had toast and cheese on Christmas day, instead of joining everyone for Christmas dinner

A sick Oliver asleep in front of the television on Christmas day.

My wonderful parents had a very special Christmas present for me which was totally overwhelming. They had created a hard back book of my blog to date - basically a whole year of blogging with all the photos and recipes ! It's such a super thing to have, and extra special to me because there are so many photos of Oliver in it too.

There is an online sharing application which lets me let you all look through it too ! However, it doesn't like me altering the html to centre it on the page for some reason - so apologies for that.

Recipe below is enough for two "special" tear and share style breads.
Bread recipe

1000g / 1kg of strong white bread flour
50 g melted butter
3 x sachets of instant yeast
3 egg yolks
2tbsp of sugar
1.1/2 tsp salt
600ml lukewarm water

Mix the ingredients together in a bowl until they come together. Knead for about 10mins until dough forms a smooth ball and glutens develop. Split into two pieces (or just make 1/2 the recipe !)and put each piece into a bowl covered with oiled cling film. Leave in a warm place until doubled in size.

When the dough has had it's first rise, take one of the pieces at a time and roll it into a long, flat piece - about 600mm long x 200mm deep. Spread the first few inches of the dough with the filling of your choice.

I chose 3 fillings. My first bread was some leftover sweet mincemeat. One half of this bread, I also sprinkled dreid cranberries and broken pecan nuts onto the mincemeat. On the other half, I placed tiny little balls of marzipan.

The third filling (for the second bread) is not shown unrolled - but was a homemade cranberry sauce made with orange zest and sloe gin and finished after cooking with some melted dark chocolate.

Roll up your bread from the long end like a giant sausage - adding more filling as is required along the way. You want the filling to stop about 1" / 25mm before the end so you have some plain dough left to seal the bread. Brush this bare section with a little beaten egg wash or some milk.

Cut the giant bread dough sausages into 2" high sections and stand on a non stick bakeware tray. I like to use a 10" round silicone baking pan mould at home. This gives a really good shape to this type of bread and it comes out looking like a big wheel. Search the blog for bread if you want to see examples.

Leave these to rise for about 30mins before baking. I think they took about 15mins in a 170deg fan oven.

 Sweet mincemeat and marzipan tear and share bread - topped with toasted almond flakes. This can also be liberally dusted with icing sugar on removing from the oven.

Pretty - isn't it ?

Whilst I had a little time "creating" in the kitchen, Pappy (grandad) and Oliver had a snooze...

Well - it's almost all over now ! In under an hour, Oliver and I leave for the airport to fly home. Unfortunately, Oliver is still not very well. Steve (my long suffering husband) drove home on Tuesday and as lovely as our visit here has been, it will also be good to get home.

Sarah-Jane Nash - 30/12/2010

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Upside Down Banana Pudding - a warm and sticky treat !

Well - I'll admit I'm cheating a bit here. It's a few weeks since I made this - but then again, I have been terribly behind in blogging !

Pudding is something I rarely make. However, sometimes when it's cold and dark outside it's quite comforting to make and devour a good old fashioned English pud. It's sweet and syrupy. The hot bananas are lovely and the little alcohol hit from the plump sultanas was nice but not overpowering.

This recipe originates from OLIVE magazine last year and is posted on the BBC Good Food Website here.

Apologies for the photos - they really are not good. The lighting was dismal and everyone was waiting to eat it - including Oliver who was bouncing up and down like a puppy on a lead whilst yelping "Pudding, pudding, pudding!"

It was all I could do to keep the fabric on the kitchen side as he was so keen to get to this .... It's a miracle that somehow it did not land on the floor !


100g of sultanas
50ml of brandy or rum
5 large bananas
75g softened butter
100g caster sugar
1 egg
1tsp vanilla
175g self raising flour
60g of pecans*
1/2 tsp nutmeg*
1 tsp cinnamon*
8 tbsp golden syrup

I ommitted the nuts and upped the sultanas only because I didn't have any and the nutmeg and cinnamon were my own additions

Soak the sultanas in rum for 30mins. Actually, I used home made apple brandy and soaked them over night in more like 75ml.

Heat the oven to 160deg C or 140deg C if fan oven

Line a 2lb loaf tin with baking paper. I actually used a 2lb silicone loaf mould. I did line the base with a strip of baking paper incase it needed a bit of help with all the golden syrup and bananas at the bottom. (Next time I really wouldn't worry as the bananas were nicely bedded into the sponge part and the syrupy stuff) just runs out.

Next, put in the golden syrup.

Slice two of the bananas lengthway and then cut in half across the middle. Lay the slices into the loaf tin or 2lb silicone loaf mould / mold. The bananas want to be face down and these will eventually become the top of your pudding.

Cream butter and sugar. Add egg and combine followed by vanilla, spices, flour and remaining bananas (mashed). Stir in the sultanas and then put the batter on top of the bananas

Bake for approx 50mins. Remove from oven and leave to stand for a few minutes before turning out.

Serve hot, as you like - with cream, ice cream or custard.

Not any good reheated on day two - so the chickens finished it. It's quite a good sized pud - easily serves six people.

Sarah-Jane Nash, December 2010 - - the silicone bakeware specialist cook shop

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Fresh Cream Chocolate Truffles - Fab Christmas Gift

On the final run up to Christmas, there is nothing that will put you in a more festive mood than making some homemade gifts. I'd be over the moon given some of these as a present and that's one of the reasons I like making them so much for others.

The better the ingredients you use, the better they taste. That's why I've used Callebaut Belgian Chocolate

These are really really easy to make and seriously knock spots off shop bought.

350g of good quality chocolate (dark, milk or plain)
1 cup of double cream
2 tablespoons of butter
* small amount of your favourite alchohol - can be ommitted

Extra chocolate for dipping (if required)
your choice of coatings for rolling (such as crushed nuts, cocoa powder, icing sugar...)

Put the cream in a pan and bring to the boil. Immediately, remove from the heat and our straight on to the chocolate. Keep stirring the chocolate and cream until all melted and combined. Stir in the butter until combined. If adding alcohol - you can add up to about 50ml now and stir to combine.

Put the ganache (chocolate truffle mix) into a bowl and refrigerate.

Roll small balls (or if you want to make big chocolates - a heaped teaspoon) of the ganache mixture. I like to lightly butter my hands as it makes the balls easier to roll. I wash my hand every 6 balls or so.

I put these on to a baking tray with a silicone baking sheet on top. If you haven't got one of these, you can use greaseproof paper. I then chill the balls again for 15 > 20 mins in the fridge whilst I melt my chocolate.

I made two batches of these today. One lot of white ganache with peppermint extract and one lot of milk chocolate ganache with whisky.

Oliver came and sneaked a white chocolate minty one off the kitchen side... He came into the kitchen, got his stool and climbed up beside me. "Oooooh - Mummy makes sweeties !" he jabbered before nabbing a chocolate and beetling off at warp speed ...

I dipped the truffles in melted chocolate first and then set aside again to harden before dipping a second time for a thicker coat. The second coat is much smoother than the first and gives a lovely finish. The chocolate hardens quickly as the ganache has already been chilled.

With the ones rolled in cocoa, I dipped only once in chocolate and then rolled them in the cocoa using two forks for a really rustic finish. It makes them big, gutsy and luxurious. These are at least two bites !

If you prefer a smoother finish and do not want to dip in chocolate, You cna simply roll into balls and then coat in cocoa, icing sugar or crushed nuts for a really nice finish  and amazing perfect spherical truffles.

Dipping in melted chocolate gives a lovely texture and a "crack" when you bite into

Of course - you could always use many of our silicone chocolate moulds.... Coat the inside of the chocolate mold with chocolate and leave to harden. Then, fill with the ganache before it is refrigerated and firm. Top with a little more melted chocolate to create the base and seal.

Sarah-Jane Nash, - December 2010

Friday, 17 December 2010

Oliver & Mummy Make Christmas Sugar Cookies

Well - my little Oliver has been a rather poorly little bogwoppit this week. Thankfully, he seems a bit better today and well enough to go to the nursery Christmas party today.

Oliver and I made these sugar cookies last weekend.... Or should I say - I made the dough. He watched it in the mixer. helped to roll it and stamp out the cookies. Mummy put the icing on and Oliver dipped them in sprinkles.

Not bad for a team effort !

They are good and hard and should easily keep in their cellophane bags for about a month. I thought they would make lovely little gifts for Oliver to give to friends and relatives this Christmas. We also made a pile for the nursery staff and his class teacher...which I'll let Oliver take with him today.

I spotted a really neat cookie cutter set online with and knew we could have some seriously good fun with it. The only disappointing bit is that they only ship within the USA - so the only way we could get this was via Ebay.

I'm glad we did ! There are three cutters in the set - a snowflake, Christmas bauble and a gingerbread man. All have the facility via a plunger to stamp letters and words into your cookies.

Christmas Sugar cookies

4 cups plain flour
225g butter (salted)
2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 egg
vanilla essence - 2 tsp
mixed spice - 3 tsp
water - enough only to combine the dough

Beat sugar and butter until light and fluffy. Add and beat in the egg and vanilla. Combine flour, baking powder and spice with the beaten mixture. You will  need to add a tiny bit of water to make it combine into a pliable dough.

I then split my dough batch into three. In two of the batches, I added some gel sugar paste and a teaspoon more of water and mixed it through.

We rolled out the dough on our new silicone work mat. This is a brand new product to us and I'm totally in love with it.

The work mats are HUGE. 640mm x 450mm - that's 25" long x 18" wide.

The have markings for english / imperial measurements (ie inches) along two sides and metric / cms on the other two sides. The are also marked with various diameter circles for rolling out pastry and icing. I have had super success rolling out fondant on it. I just rubbed a tiny bit of Trex / veg shortening on to the surface and got rolling. Absolutely no extra icing sugar required for rolling. Likewise, it's a dream for rolling pastry and kneading bread.

The silicone is very different to the feel of what our baking tray liners and moulds are. It's kind of stretchy - almost like a wetsuit. It grips beautifully to work surfaces. Do note that it's not meant for cutting on. You will easily cut right through it with a knife. Saying that, I trimmed some strips of fondant on it for my mums cake (see previous blog entry) but did so with great care and using a very old and blunt dinner knife and the lightest of pressure. Worked a dream. Saves my work tops getting claggy after kneading bread dough or rolling pastry. A simple wipe of a cloth and it's ready to fold or roll and put away.

It's marked with cirular rolling guides up to 16" diameter too which is mega handy.

These silicone bakeware work mats / rolling mats will be available from Monday for £7.99 each

Sarah-Jane Nash, - December 2010

Thursday, 16 December 2010

A Belated Birthday Cake Post - Happy Birthday Mum.

Forgive the rubbish photo. Everything was a bit of a rush.

My life has been chaos for the last two or three months due to the volume of pre-Christmas orders and enquiries. I've been working more hours than I can add up and there has been little time for play or blogging.

However, I did make this cake for my mum for her birthday last week with the new silicone bakeware "Say It With Cake" words and numbers moulds. All the letters and numbers are now available singly. I've yet to add them to the website as there are hundreds upon hundreds of boxes of silicone baking molds to sort out. However, I'm hoping to get them added next week - ready to ship at the start of January.

I know many of you have been waiting anxiously for these to be available to buy. They arrived with us two weeks ago, but it has been impossible to sort the massive volume of stock that has arrived in AND get pre-Christmas orders out in time. That's why it's been taking so long to get them on the website. Still - you'll be able to order as of next week for delivery in the New Year

This cake was made from my favourite fruit cake recipe and then "fed" with homemade apple brandy.

I specifically chose to make a birthday cake out of fruit cake so it would keep for a while. The couriers are all really slow at the moment and have massive backlogs from the last lot of severe weather and snow we had earlier in the month. As a result, this took exactly 1 week instead of one day to reach mum.

Still - it should taste as fresh as the day it left and easily keep (if required) for several weeks.

I lightly greased and floured the moulds before use. Instead of 2 hours cooking time, in the letter moulds this only took about 22mins until perfectly done. On removing from the oven, my tip is to cover with foil and a tea towel when hot to lock in as much moisture as possible.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Crown Muffin Moulds are HERE and now available - so exciting !

At last - we've had mountains and mountains of new style silicone moulds arrive .... many of which are my own designs. There are more boxes of them than I could possibly have believed and the store is full to bursting ! It will be a little while before we can get them all unpacked - so do bare with me. I'll introduce you to most of the new stuff as soon as I can.

Many of you will remember my earlier blog post about THE SECRET TO MAKING CAFE STYLE MUFFINS

Well - our specialist silicone bakeware mould to make crown ovens in a normal sized oven (non commercial) is now available and can be found IN OUR ONLINE SHOP HERE at an incredible price of £5.99 each. These would make an awesome Christmas gift for any keen baker.

We also ship worldwide for anyone interesed outside of the UK... but last date for overseas orders for delivery by Christmas is today.

Basically - the mould has a special recess head. You put your paper case in and fill the case right to the brim. As the cake mixture rises in the pan, it fills the recess and creates the big mushroom head.

Bingo - you've got massive muffins like those in the big chain coffee houses :-)

A mix for 12 normal muffins makes 6 of these Crown American Jumbo muffins - so take care not to eat too many or you will get very very fat !!!

Have  fun and enjoy....

Sarah-Jane,     December 2010

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

A Post For Chef Dennis (MTAMF) ..... BREAD !

I've been meaning to do post this for a while, but I'm so laden down with work at the moment that it's been nigh on impossible to keep my blog up to date.

You put a blog post on a month or so back about teaching the girls to make bread....

I've been making bread by hand for some time now, but have never tried :

1. fridge storing dough
2. artisan type with the tray and boiling water underneath
3. pizza / bread stone (it's been in my shed unopened for about 3 years !)

Anyway - I just wanted to acknowledge the source of the inspiration and share a few photos.

Previously, I've let me bread prove and bake on a tray. It's always been good bread. I'd no idea how to transfer proven bread from a tray to the oven without making a real hash of it. My pizzas NEVER ever got that crispy base either.... but they do now !

Well - thanks to your blog entry and link, I looked up and realised that to do this, I needed to basically put my dough on a scattering of semolina or corn meal on "something transferable" first. My Joseph Joseph chopping board turned out ideal as a substitue bread peel !

For others - the cornmeal / semolina literally acts like little ball bearings and allows the proven bread dough / pizza base to slide on to the pre-heated stone in the oven with a simple shunt. Excessive force for the shut is not required - the cornmeal / semolina does the work. :big thumbs-up)

The tray with boiling water definately adds to that thicker crust.

I'm still to attempt making sour dough and my own starter. I really want to have a go at that. Perhaps sometime between Christmas and New Year

And to sum up in one word....


Sarah-Jane Nash - - silicone moulds, silicone bakeware, innovative cookware

Plain Sponge Recipe for XXXXL Cupcake Mould

By popular request.... An XXXXL Giant Jumbo Cupcake - this one. Many of you have seen and tried the recipe I last used in this which is HERE. However, I've also had loads of requests for a plain sponge recipe without the use of the apples.

Well - to be honest, I've not had occassion since to make such an enormously huge cake since. After all - even I couldn't dream of attempting to tackle eating a 4.25kg / 9lb cake without a lot of help ! PLEASE PLEASE try and ignore my icing. I went a bit nuts with yellow gel paste colouring and it WAS only slapped on with a few M & M's as sprinkles on Monday morning before work. It isn't here to look pretty.... it's here for functionality reasons only I'm afraid....

Photograph below shows our XXXXL Giant Jumbo Cupcake sat next to a Big Top Jumbo Cupcake. This shows how shockingly large such a cake is.

Do butter your silicone moulds VERY LIGHTLY and then dust with flour (tapping any excess out over the sink) before filling with your mixture. We want to try and avoid clumps of flour stuck to the finished cake as this doesn't look good and certainley wouldn't taste it. Buttering and flouring moulds always makes a massive difference though and means you cna still remove the cake hot if you have to !

Since I was home on Sunday with a poorly Oliver (who was rather snotty indeed), I figured it was about time to try and get another of these in the oven. As a test to see how quantities and mixtures worked out and tasted, the top part and bottom part were very different....

First of all, the mould was designed to be used in one piece. You fill the bottom side first, put it in the oven for about 30 > 40 mins and then fill the top side before putting back in the oven. Filling the base section first stabilises the top part, though you do need to carry to the oven (on a baking tray for support at all times) with care.

Recipe for Country Pound Cake


3 cups all-purpose flour (plain)
3/4 teaspoon baking powder (next time, I think I'd double this)
 225g salted butter, softened ( I used salted butter and dont add salt
110g shortening
2.2/3 cups white sugar
5 eggs
1 cup milk
3 teaspoons vanilla extract

Basically, I creamed butter, shortening and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time and beat well between each addition. Slowly add in flour and milk (alternating between the two) until total volume is combined.

Preheat fan oven to 170degF

It's a LOT of mix. It came up to and over the top of the beater in my Kitchenaid !

A certain little person enjoyed licking the beater....

The mix more than 3/4 filled the base side of the mould. There is a photo below....

I put it (on a baking tray) into a preheated fan oven at 170deg F. After 1 hour, I opened the door and placed a silicone baking tray / sheet liner over the top of the cake. This was to stop the cake browning too quickly. A big cake like this generally takes a LONG time to cook. You could use baking paper to cover the cake instead - I like the silicone baking sheets for this though as it not only saves wasting paper, but also stays exactly where you put it - fan oven or not !

The cake tested done at 1hr 40mins. I should maybe have checked it a little earlier. As you can see from the photos, it rose by only the tiniest amount.

Texture is quite dense. It's a type of cake that would be quite good for carving into shapes. It was still quite moist when cut last night and is more than edible this afternoon. It wasn't even covered over last night and has been sat in the office at work. I think it should keep and slice quite well stored properly !

 On reflection, I think next time I would leave the silicone baking sheet over the top when cooling to lock in as much moisture as possible. I like to do that with dense type cakes (including Christmas fruit cake.)

As this cake rose very little and the top was nearly flat - there was very little waste as only the top crust needed cut off....


Well - this was a bit of a cheat. There really is not a recipe. This giant jumbo cupcake mould is a monster. A lot of people want to be able to make such cakes FAST, but so much mix is very time consuming to make and get in the oven

For this reason, I've been trialing commercial bakers pre-mix for genoise type sponge for various purposes and results in general have been good and exceedingly quick.

We're hoping to be able to start offering the Baker's premix in early 2011.

I used :

625g premix
180g sunflower oil (GRAMS - not MLS)
250g of water

There is no need to add anything else. Sugar, raising agent etc is all in the pre- prepared mix. You do not even need a mixer. A brisk mix with a wooden spoon to combine until smooth is all it takes.

This volume filled the top as in photo below. I think you would need approx 30% more to fill the base section.

As you can see - this rose a lot - so there was quite a bit of wasteage as the top needed cut level. I also covered this with the silicone baking sheet after about an hour - but this mix rose quickly and by an hour there was already a fairly thick top crust developed. The baking tray liner didn't cover the big domed top the way I would have liked. I think next time, I'd put the baking sheet over it quicker

Although a lot less mix volume than the Country Pound Cake recipe, it too a good bit longer to cook - just over two hours. Whether that's because I had it out and in the oven about 4 times to check doneness.... or something to do with the recipe - I have no idea at this time. Sorry !

At the same time, I was also trying something else. Several people have stated that they would like to cut the mould in half and use it as two separate pieces to cook at exactly the same time but on different shelves of the oven. This poses some problems....

The mould is designed to be used as ONE piece as the base part supports the top part when filled. The base part also needs filling FIRST to enable it to do this. Cut in half, the top part does not have enough support and WILL fall over in the oven as the cake rises. I know at least two of you have done this :-o

In order to find a way round cooking this in two parts, I actually cut my mould in half yesterday to see how I could support it and how it would perform.

The base section was fine simply on top of a baking tray.

I placed the top section inside an 8" traditional bakeware cake tin with a screwed up piece of baking paper on either side. There is a photo below. I'm pushing the mould back so you can see the paper...

It cooked no problem and did not move in the oven - nor on carrying to and from the oven :-)

Sliced yesterday. The commercial bakers premix was moister and less dense than the pound cake recipe but did have a thicker crust. It was more crumby than the pound cake. Both tasted just fine and to be honest, I'd be happy with either. However, next attempt with baking such a big cake with premix will be how to reduce the crust.

By the way, the bottom of the top section (very top of the cake) I carved into shape before plastering the whole cake with buttercream...

Hope this helps !

All the best

Sarah-Jane - silicone bakeware specialist cookshop

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Chocolate Covered Rum Balls - Ideal Christmas Gift !

These are really really easy to make and there is not even any cooking involved. Is that cheating ? They were SO easy to make, it FELT like cheating.

I made these at 3am on Saturday morning. No joke - honestly I did... On a Saturday, our shop NATURAL HEATING selling cast iron multi fuel stoves (wood burners) is open from 11am > 1pm. Two hours barely sounds like it's worth it, but at this time of year it's not uncommon for us to be packed out the door with customers and many have a long wait to be seen. People often come a long way to see us and view our stoves, so I like to be able to offer them a hot drink and a cake.

We only open for two hours as I have to take Oliver with me - and it's verging on impossible to work and entertain a toddler.

With the hours I've been working recently, I was getting TOO TIRED to make cake. That's why I decided to have a go at making these rum balls - which could double up as a practice run for starting Christmas Hampers in a couple of weeks.

I found and bookmarked this recipe from Joy of Baking a few weeks ago. It's astonishingly easy and there are all sorts of possible variations.

140g finely chopped almonds
120g of finely crushed vanilla wafers (I used the Askey's fan shaped ones to go with icecream)
70g icing sugar (original recipe says 55 - but it wasn't as sweet as I would have liked)
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of glucose syrup or light corn syrup
60ml of rum (I used 80ml)

Add all the dry ingredients together and give a good stir. Then add liquid glucose and rum. Mine was a little dry, so I added some more - just enough to combine and bind.

Additionally, I added about 60g of sultanas

Chill the mixture and then roll into 36 x 2.5cm balls

Well - I didn't chill mine, and I rolled them into rather large balls. I only got 24.... :-P More like two bites than one !

I greased my hands every few balls with some butter as the mixture is really sticky and then placed them on a silicone baking tray liner. I then popped them in the fridge for 30 mins whilst I prepared some toppings.

For toppings, I used some melted chocolate. I've had best results with chocolate using Callebaut Belgian Couverture chocolate for things like this. I used real, cocoa powder, icing sugar white and milk chocolate. I've always had poor results coating things using ordinary supermarket chocolate. The Belgian couverture chocolate is easier to temper and tastes nicer anyay....

I rolled all the balls in the melted chocolate which additionally had a tiny amount of butter added to help it flow a little better for coating. Tap the ball (balanced on the fork) on the edge of the bowl to get rid of excess.

Rather than just roll some in cocoa or icing, I DID first roll them in chocolate too - which gave them the spikey hedgehog look. I used two forks to roll them and lift them out.

With the ones that were only chocolate coated, I tried to drizzle with white chocolate. It was a bit of a globby mess. It worked well - but I'll actually do this with a piping bag fitted with a tiny plain round nozzle this time.

They hardened nice and quickly and lift easily off the silicone sheet. The excess left at the bottom of some was very easily trimmed away.

The cute snowflake wrappers arre a little on the big side for 2.5cm chocolates - but worked well with my big bruiser sized ones ! The wrappers are available to buy on our website and are ideal for mini muffins / cupcakes.

One of my colleagues asked me on Saturday "Did you buy those from Thorntons?". I told him off for being cheeky - until he correctly pointed out that's it's a rather good compliment if someone thinks they're bought from a chocolate shop.. Sorry Rich !

They do look really cute in little cellophane bags or homemade boxes. I'm almost sure I'll be popping these in my Christmas 2010 hampers.

Customers seemed to enjoy them - the rum balls disappeared quick enough. Given I only got 24 out of the mix however, I did then go on to also make carrot cake afterwards - but forgot to take photos. Oh well....

Sarah-Jane Nash - - silicone bakeware specialist cook shop Nov 2010

Another First... Rabbit Casserole

Fist of all, I must apologise for my absence of late. I've been working extraordinarily long hours - often on the go for 18 > 20 hours in the day. There are just so many pre-Christmas orders to get processed and on their way to customers that there has been little time for anything.

I've not even seen that much of Oliver ! He's at nursery every afternoon and has spent the odd morning with a little friend. Our time together has been limited - though on Sundays we have been having a family day and all spending some time together. However, I've mainly spent today at home (apart from being out feeding the animals) since Oliver is a bit poorly with a bad cold.

I've often meant to try eating rabbit. It's easy to obtain here as we are quite rural and most butchers have it fresh during the winter season. For one reason or another, I've just never got round to it. Eventually, earlier in the month, I bought a jointed rabbit and turned it into this....

The casserole smelt wonderful - and the sauce was tasty. However, I really was not keen on the flavour of the meat and doubt I'll ever buy rabbit again. It just really didn't appeal to me.

Saying that - I bet the same recipe would be wonderful swapping chicken for the rabbit.... So, I'd use the recipe again (minus the rabbit !)

The rabbit I had was 1kg in weight - so I halved the quantities below

Rabbit Stew

ALL credit to Kirsten. Her recipe is copied and pasted below

2kg (4lb) Rabbit, jointed
285ml (½ pint) Chicken Stock
140ml (¼ pint) White Wine
2 tbsp Seasoned Flour
55g (2oz) Butter
1 Garlic Clove
1 Bouquet Garni
2 tbsp Double Cream (I actually used 4....)
1 tbsp Parsley
2 tsp Cornflour
2 tsp Tomato Puree
Salt and Pepper

Coat the rabbit joints in seasoned flour and fry in butter in a flameproof casserole, browning on all sides.
Add the stock, wine and tomato puree, bring to the boil.
Add the bouquet garni, crushed garlic and season to taste.
Reduce the heat and cook gently for 1½ - 2 hours or until the rabbit is tender.

Transfer the rabbit to a serving dish, keep warm.

Transfer the sauce to a saucepan, removing the bouquet garni
Mix the cream and cornflour together, and stir into the sauce until thickened.
Pour sauce over rabbit and garnish with parsley.

Sarah-Jane Nash -, November 2010

Friday, 12 November 2010

Christmas Fudge - who wants some ?

Homemade fudge can be SO easy and versatile to make - and makes a lovely gift at any time of the year.

It's no secret - I LOVE CHRISTMAS ! I love the smells of the spices and dried fruits, the colours and seasons cheer. It's even more special now that I've got a cheeky little boy to share it with. It's children and excitement and bringing of families together that make Christmas what it is to me.

This Christmas fudge is simply divine. A rich dark chocolate fudge base, full of spice, dried fruits and homemade apple brandy liquer. The top part is a white chocolate fudge laden with ground almonds and topped with flaked almonds. It's like Christmas cake without the cake. Gloriously creamy and smooth. It's not crumbly and it's not chewy (apart from the fruit)

Of late, I've barely had any spare time which is why blog posts have been so scarce. Actually - I've had ZERO spare time. There is not a day this week when I have been in bed before 3.30am. Too much work to be done... Pre Christmas orders are just crazy and the amount of emails to do, packing, paperwork etc is extraodinary. If you have been missing my blog posts, I do apologise. However, at the moment priority is to try and get orders out the door at speed so everyone can get baking and crafting.

Well - I started making this batch of fudge about 1.30am this morning. Mainly as a gift for a neighbour. I think it's a combined sorry and thank you in one !

Blackie ; one of our pet chickens; decided to wander 1/4 of a mile down the road and take up residence with an elderly couple..The elderly man found out that she belonged to us and came to let me know. Blackie is normally the friendliest little thing and you can literally walk over and pick her up. Not in the neighbours' garden....

The man had tried chasing her round the garden with a leaf rake to chase her out. He'd also tried throwing a tarpaulin over her. Poor Blackie was petrified. Every time I went down to try and catch her - she'd leg it at warp speed. The garden was full of dense shrubbery patches and laden trees of rosy apples. It was very secluded being totally surrounded by 40ft high pine trees on three sides. I tried stealth. I tried foor. We tried cornering her and we tried a big fishing net. Couldn't get remotely close.

Blackie wasn't daft. She was roosting at night in the pine trees and had learnt how to climb ! The minute a human entered the garden, Blackie went up the tree. Up, up, up - so high up that instead of a big black hen, she looked like a little black speck.

It's been a good two months that Blackie has been away. But finally the old man and his wife managed to catch blackie with a big trap and a long fishing line that went across the garden and in the dining room window. Trap baited, I believe they waited several days for hours at a time on poor Blackie being tempted by their lure.

I'll take some fudge round tomorrow morning and hopefully make some more "Peace". They seem ok about it - though they didn't really want a chicken as a long term lodger.


125g salted butter
12 normal sized marshmallows
3/4 cup of evaporated milk
2 cups of sugar

180g chocolate (use white for light and dark for chocolate - I never use milk for this !)
up to 1 cup of dried fruit / nuts / chopped biscuits

Basically - that's it. Put the first 4 ingredients in a large pot. It's best in a non stick pan. Ordinary is fine - but the bottom has a tendancy to catch slightly. Cook over a medium heat, stirring. As soon as it comes to the boil - set your timer for exactly 5 minutes. Keep stirring and when the 5 mins are up, remove from the heat. DO BOIL FOR EXACTLY 5 MINS. Less than 4.30mins and it won't set. More than 5 mins and it starts to get grainy.

Add in the chocolate - either broken or chopped and stir in until it melts. Quickly, stir in your add ins and then pour into our silicone 8" x 8" fudge pan. Leave to cool. I like to refridgerate overnight before cutting into nice chunky squares. It will keep a good 2 > 3 weeks in an air tight box in the fridge. The 8" square silicone bakeware mould holds one fudge batch properly (just over 1/2 full)

 If using a tin, grease very very very well. You'll still curse, swear and perhaps have to pour boiling water over the base to get this stuff out. I really DO recommend silicone for making fudge. No greasing etc - just pour the hot fudge straight in.

This recipe is VERY versatile and I start with my basic recipe above and then adapt.


Base layer - add 2tsp mixed spice to the 4 top ingredients. Instead of 3/4 a cup of evaporated milk, I used about 1/2 the amount in evaporated milk and the other 1/2 in my homemade apple brandy liquer. I mixed in dark belgian chocolate, with sultanas and cherries

We've got these fab new moulds. Actually - I've had these ones for a while but just have not got
round to putting them on the website. I originally intended them for small soap loaves - but they are fantastic for a deep layered fudge or small slicing bar type layer cakes - ideal for a couple to share over a couple of days. I've just recently started using these before promoting them and have already fallen for them big time.

I used four moulds for this double fudge project. I filled the first 3 moulds half full with the dark chocolate fudge base layer.

My top fudge layer was the basic fudge recipe with a teaspoon of Sainsbury's Taste The Difference French Almond extract. I added white chocolate to this and 1/2 a cup of ground almonds. It's smooth, distinctly almondy and much better than marzipan !

I poured some of the top almond fudge layer over each dark chocolate, boozy spiced bottom layer and quickly pressed on lots of slivered almonds to the top. Top layer is only about 1/2 the thickness of my bottom layer. The fourth empty mould was 3/4 filled with the remaining almond fudge.

After cooling, I turned out the fudge bars and sliced it. Each slice was cut again into three fingers. It looks just like Christmas cake and has some powerful kick of the dark chocolate, smooth almond top, apple brandy, spices and fruits.

It looks really pretty boxed up in homemade boxes. I love to make little peep through windows with acetate as a sneak preview of what is inside.

Blackie is happy to be home and once more eating from our hands and following at our heels. I for one am very thankful. Hopefully the neighbours are none the worse for their experience ! Sorry....

Sarah-Jane Nash - - silicone bakeware specialist cook shop, November 2010

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Scottish Clootie Dumpling

Clootie Dumpling is a traditional Scottish fruit pudding. It's super served freshly made and hot on it's own or with custard. Also popular fried along with sausages on a Sunday morning. No wonder Scots have a history of heart disease...

Anyway - Clootie Dumpling gets it's name from the cloth it is cooked in. The prepared mix is put into a cotton cloth (pillowcase would do if that's all you have) and loosely tied with string to leave room for expansion. It is then put into a pot of boiling water and boiled for 4 hours. The pot will regularly need topping up with water to cover the dumpling.

Oliver and I went a trip up to Scotland last weekend to see my parents (his grand parents). Having recently had his birthday - there was a promise of clootie dumpling. I've not had clootie dumpling in years. My Gran (who is no longer with us unfortunately) used to make us a dumpling every birthday instead of cake as per our heritage tradition. Underneath our slice would be hidden our lucky coin (wrapped in either greaseproof paper or foil).

The recipe as follows belonged to my Gran and was passed to her by her mother (my great grandmother) - so dates back to around 1850.

Oliver helped his Nanny make the dumpling ! For once, I had no part in this other than in the eating. I'll apologise now - I couldn't get any photos in decent lighting in the kitchen...

Recipe for Clootie Dumpling - Jean Inglis Knights

4 cups plain flour
2 rounded teasp baking powder
pinch salt
100g suet
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons black treacle
2 teaspoons mixed spice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
400g currants
100g sultanas
mix with milk or water as required to combine

You want a really thick porridge like consistency - almost verging on dough. It's not like a bread dough - just mix well with a wooden spoon.

See the video and Oliver will show you how !

Wet the dumpling cloth and then flour it. Tip the dumpling mix onto the cloth. Gather, and tie loosely to leave room for expansion. Not really loose. The dumpling is going to get about 50% bigger and needs to fill the cloth. Too saggy, and you'll end up with a bag of gunge after cooking !

Here is a tied clootie....

Now - this needs to go into a large pot of boiling water and be regularly topped up. Cook for 4 hours.

After cooking, remove from pot and take off the cloth. The cloth can be washed and reused. My mum still uses my grandmother's cloth.

The outside will be pale and sticky. You now need to pop it into an oven at around 180deg C for a short time for the skin on the outside to dry off. As soon as the outside starts to dry and look a little leathery, it's ready to serve.