Tuesday 29 November 2011

Homemade Boozy Mince Pies

Mince pies have to be one of my favourite foods of Christmas. I adore the warmth from the mixed spice and cinnamon traditionally coupled with brandy. I kid you not - there is little easier to make than these adorable mini mince pies. Of course, bigger ones are just as easy - but it doesn't give me the excuse to eat two of them !

In many years gone by, it was common place for mincemeat for these sweet meat pies to ACTUALLY contain ground meat. Some people still make them like that. However, this version does not.

The batch of mincemeat is very very simple to make. It gets better with age and will keep several months properly stored. I made a batch of 24 mini mince pies in my silicone bakeware mould and still had enough mincemeat to fill about 5 good sized jam jars (each of which will be enough for another batch of pies). Makes a lovely Christmas gift !

FOR THE PASTRY (makes 24 mini pies)

275g plain cake flour
110g salted butter (cold and GRATED)
100g icing sugar
1 large egg
zest of a lemon

Rub the grated butter into the flour and icing sugar, until the mixture resembles crumbs. I like to use cold grated butter as it incorporates easier when rubbing together. You want to work pastry as little as possible to keep is short and melt in the mouth.

Add the beaten egg. You may want to combine with a wooden spoon as it does get very sticky - but I get in there with my hands.

Once combined, wrap in clingfilm and shove in the fridge for at least 20mins. This is a VERY soft sweet pastry. I don't even bother rolling it.

When you are ready to use it, pinch pieces off . I've forgotten the exact weight now.. but am pretty sure I used 15 grams per ball.

I used a pastry tamper to form the shapes and then finished the tops with my fingers.

Now fill your mini pies with as much of the mincemeat as they will hold. It's not much - about 1 heaped teaspoon. After filling the ones below, I went back round them and packed a bit more in


650g of luxury mixed dried fruit
(mine consisted of raisins, currants, mixed peel, cherries, pineapple, apricot)
100g roughly chopped pecans
juice and zest of a lemon
400g medium diced bramley apples 
1 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp mixed spice
250g Atora suet
100g caster sugar
250g dark brown soft sugar
175ml  of apple brandy
175g plum liqueur

Basically, put all the ingredients into a large bowl and stir. Pop it in the fridge, and give it another stir every time you walk past over the next two days. 

The dried fruits will swell as they absorb the alcohol and strangely enough, the apples are going to shrink. There will be some thick syrupy stuff in the bottom.

After 2 > 3 days, spoon into sterilised jars and seal with a lid. Make sure you split the syrupy liquid evenly between the jars Some people think mincemeat is best left to mature for 2 > 3 weeks before use - but I've found the results and flavour just as good after the first 2 > 3 days.

The pastry tops for my little pies are 6 or 7 gram balls f pastry simply squashed in the palm of my hand.

Put a tiny slit in the top of each one. Liberally douse with caster sugar and bake in a 180deg C fan / 200deg C electric oven for approx 15 mins until the tops are slightly golden.

Enjoy warm with a cup of tea or a glass of mulled wine.

These will store up to a week in an airtight container. Why not make and freeze an entire tray in one go ? Ideal to pull out the freezer and bake when unexpected visitors arrive. Silicone bakeware moulds are totally safe to go from freezer to oven !

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Spiced Crab Apple Jelly

I'm very late in blogging this one. Been meaning to do it for several weeks. Already Autumn has passed and winter is upon us.

Nature brings a bountiful harvest. There is something special about harvesting bountiful wild crab apples and hedgerow berries. The vast majority of people pass them by without a second glance. To me, they are something special to be savoured. Easy to collect, and free to gather they impart beautiful flavours and are delicious made into jellies to serve on thickly buttered bread or toast and as a condiment alongside meats.

Add to a maslin pan :

2.5kg of crab apples
a thumb sized piece of root ginger
2 sticks of lemon grass
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp chilli flakes
1 stick of cinnamon
Juice and zest of a lemon

Add approx 1 litre of water and boil until the fruit becomes soft and pulpy.

Strain off the liquid through some muslin. Actually, an clean pillowcase works well too. I can't resist squeezing out any excess juice, but by doing so this will make jellies a little cloudy. For this reason, I generally pass the juice a second time through a muslin cloth.

Put the juices back in the pan - with 750g of sugar for every litre of juice. Boil until setting point for jam is reached on a sugar thermometer and then pour into sterilised jars

Other variations of this can be made. I also made some hedgerow jelly (not spiced) with 1.5kg of mixed hedgerow berries such as sloes, hawthorne, rose hips and 1kg crab apples. Delicious on warm buttered scones.

Apologies - I didn't get round to taking photos of the hedgerow jelly. Shame, as it was a beautiful pink hue.

Monday 21 November 2011

Banana Cornflake Crumble Breakfast Muffins FOODBUZZ #5

Our Crown muffin mould makes large American jumbo sized muffins. The silicone mould has a special rebated head so you can create those great big mushroom like tops that you find in all the well known cafes / coffee shops. It's almost impossible to recreate muffins like these at home without a special mould. If you've tried, you have no doubt experienced muffin mix overflowing the top of normal bakeware / moulds and a very messy end result.

The topping is optional. If used, the muffins are best eaten same day. They make large MAN FOOD sized muffins. Each is the same as two normal muffins (excluding topping) - so either hide in a corner whilst consuming or cut in half and share ! The picture in the foreground is one of these on a side plate. The 3 in the background are on a dinner plate (to give an idea of scale)

This recipe creates a lovely moist muffin. They seem to stay fresh in the fridge for a good 3 days (without topping). The cornflake crumble topping has a lovely crunchy texture.

300g plain (cake) flour
1.1/2tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
100g of white chocolate chips (optional)
400g of mashed bananas
1 beaten egg
100ml milk
100ml vegetable oil

Prepare the crown muffin mould by greasing the inside of the rims at the top and dusting with flour. Tap out any excess. Don't bother this to the lower section of the mould unless you are not using paper liners.

The papers are designed only to stop where the rebated head starts.

Preheat oven to 180deg C fan / 200 deg C electric

Sift dry ingredients together. Add all wet ingredients and mix to combine. Do be careful not to overmix. Don't panic - it's going to be really lumpy, especially with the mashed banana. 

Spoon mix into the cells in your mould. It will overflow the paper cases and partially into the rebated head area.

For the topping

50g salted butter
60g plain flour
50g granulated sugar
25g cornflakes

Rub the butter with your fingers into the flour and sugar. Lightly crush the cornflakes in your hand and add to the mix. 

The mix should just hold together when clamped in your hand. If it is too crumbly, add a little more butter. You don't want a fine crumble. You want to clamp some in your hand and roughly crumble it in lumps over the muffin batter.

Bake for approx 25 mins until a cocktail stick comes out clean. The muffins should be well risen and golden.

My little cake tester approves ! This bit went missing whilst I was still taking the photos....

Sarah-Jane Nash, November 2011 - The joys of baking with Oliver !

Sunday 20 November 2011

Zingy Lemon & Ginger Iced Gingerbread Cake

This was a beautifully moist, rich and spicy gingerbread cake which was topped with a zingy lemon and ginger icing.

It was good. Really good ! Has to be my all time favourite gingerbread recipe. So good infact, I made two in two days. One to take to work Saturday before last (coffee and cake for customers every Saturday morning) and the other for my friend Victoria.

The original recipe can be found on the BBC GOOD FOOD website here

My recipe was very similar - but method a little different and quicker. I used a 9" square silicone mold and cut the finished cake into 18 generous sized servings.

225g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 tsp ground ginger
2 tsp cinnamon
120g butter
250ml milk
115g dark brown soft (muscavado) sugar
200g black treacle
50g golden syrup
80g finely grated preserved ginger (syrup reserved)

Preheat the oven to 160deg C fan / 180deg normal

Line a 9" square silicone baking mould or tin with baking parchment.
This is very sticky stuff - especially when iced, so I recommend you don't skip this step. I wanted to lift it out by the paper and am glad I went to the extra effort of lining the mould. Saying that, I only lined the base and two sides with a strip (after greasing to make the paper stick) and did not bother lining the other two sides.

Sieve all dry ingredients into a large bowl and give a stir to combine.

Melt the sugars, milk and butter in a large saucepan until almost boiling.

Remove from the heat.

Quickly mix in all dry ingredients until no lumps can be seen. You may want to use a hand mixer to do this.

Transfer this mixture into a 9" square silicone mould or traditional baking tin (on a baking tray for support) and get it in the oven as quick as you can.

Bake until a cocktail stick comes out clean. Mine took approx 25 mins.


250g powdered icing sugar
juice of 1 lemon
reserved syrup from preserved ginger

Mix these together until a thick, smooth paste is formed.

Spread on top of the hot gingerbread (just out the oven). It will start to melt as you spread, which gives a nice even coverage.

Leave overnight in the tin / mould to cool and for the icing to harden. If you can resist, leave for a couple of days in a tin to mature as it will improve given a chance !

Sarah-Jane Nash, November 2011 - www.siliconemoulds.com - Cooking with silicone bakeware

Wednesday 16 November 2011

Bockwurst Sausages Baked in a Bun - MAN FOOD !

I came up with this idea a few weeks ago and never got round to trying it out until today.. This photo is a little scary. These are my colleagues - not a bunch of ex convicts :-P

The guys got ripped into these when I took them in at lunchtime and it took them a little longer to demolish one than it does a dainty macaron !

I'm sure there will be someone else out there who may adapt these and make them look pretty. Forgive me, but this initial version is unadulterated MAN FOOD. It's rustic and huge. Made for eating with grubby, unwashed hands and cramming in a big gob (huge mouth) whilst on the move. Saying that, they smelt wonderful even if they did look rather silly.

Saying that, it worked pretty well.

I'd bought a big jar of 8 huge German Brockwurst sausages from Lidl. They are like big hotdogs, (though taste a lot better) and come in a jar with brine. I'm guessing they have a higher meat content than normal hot dogs and are 75% pork These were ready cooked and can be eaten cold or reheated. They're big old hot dogs at approx 8" long.

The recipe below produced enough dough to make 6 Bockwursts Baked in Buns.

First of all, I made a batch of bread dough very late last night. My Kitchenaid did all the work with a dough hook.

500g strong white bread flour
25g olive oil
1.5tsp salt
1tbsp sugar
14g dried active yeast - or 1 x sachet fast action bread maker yeast
35g wholegrain mustard
35g grated parmesan
1.5tsp dried mixed herbs
320ml luke warm water

It using dried active yeast, dissolve sugar in the water, add the yeast and leave for about 10mins to activate.

Proceed to combine all ingredients and make the dough. Knead for 10 mins until smooth and silky - or if it's 1.30am, you may choose to get the Kitchenaid to do it for you as I did !

Put the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with clingfilm. Shove in the fridge overnight - or leave to rise until doubled in size and ready to use.

I've been working with sour dough a lot recently. That does not rise as much as regular dough. I've been shoving my sour dough in the fridge in an oiled tupperware box rather than in a big bowl.

This was how much the dough had risen IN THE FRIDGE after about 2 hours before I went to bed... I knocked it back a bit, figured it wouldn't do much more (and had no where to go) before the morning and put it back in the fridge.

This is what I found this morning ....

I guess it had been trying to escape !

I took it out the box and divided into 6 x 140g balls. Each of these was rolled out. I put a generous squirt of chilli tomato ketchup on each one and a bockwurst on top.

Then sealed them up like packages. Do not forget to make a small air / steam hole in one end. The ones I didn't burst open at the seams on baking.. Glaze with egg wash and bake at approx 180deg C fan for 20mins.

I wish I'd scattered some sesame seeds on top too.

As you can see, they cam out a beautiful golden brown and the sausages stayed snuggly warm inside the soft dough outer for a considerable amount of time. They may look a bit more presentable cut in two across the diagonal and served in a basket with some hand cut chips (fries). But whatever way - offer to a man, and it's good food to grab and go !

Sarah-Jane Nash - experimenting in the kitchen, November 2011 - http://www.siliconemoulds.com

Monday 14 November 2011

Beef Suet Pudding - A British Winter Classic

A rich and luxurious beef steak suet pudding. Easily enough to feed 6+

I'd never made one of these - but it's easier than it looks. A pressure cooker drastically cuts down cooking time !

For the filling (and enough to also do a steak pie !)

1kg shin beef (cubed)
all purpose flour
2 cloves of garlic, crushed / chopped
150g pickled onions, drained and sliced
1 > 2 medium onions, finely sliced
150g sliced mushrooms
2 sticks celery (finely sliced or small diced)
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp thyme
1 tbsp black treacle
2 tsp marmite (or vegemite)
3 beef stock cubes
1 heaped tsp of english mustard
30g grated parmesan

Generously toss the cubed shin beef in flour until totally covered and fry in a little oil to brown in batches until starting to go golden on the outside. Set aside. Gently cook the garlic, celery and onion for a couple of minutes, before adding the onions, pickled onions, and mushrooms to the pan.

To approx 1pint of boiling water, dissolve the stock cubes. Stir in the pepper, thyme, treacle, mustard and parmesan. Pour over the meat / onions. Give it a good stir and cover with a tight fitting lid. Leave to gently simmer on the hob for a couple of hours, checking occasionally. More water can be added if needed, but we’re looking for a thick and luxurious gravy at the end before taking it off the heat.

To make the suet pastry

150g beef suet
300g self raising flour
1tsp dried mixed herbs
1 > 2 tsp baking powder
approx 200mls cold water.

Mix the dry ingredients together.  Combine the ingredients together with cold water – just enough to bind and bring together. I also added a couple of tsp of dried mixed herbs

Take a pyrex glass pudding bowl and butter the inside generously.

Reserve about 1/3 of the pastry dough. Roll the rest out to about 5 or 6mm thick on a silicone work mat (stops it sticking to the work tops !) and use this to line the pudding bowl. There should be enough to allow for a small overhang. Rest / chill in the fridge for approx 20 mins.

Fill the pudding bowl to within about 30mm of the top, don't put in too much of the gravy ! Roll the remaining dough and place this over the top of the meat and seal using a pastry brush with a little water. Make sure to leave a gap of about 25mm / 1" from the top of the bowl to allow for expansion

Cover with some greaseproof paper and foil. Put a pleat in the middle to allow for expansion. I used an elastic band to hold this in place whilst I tied it with string.

Put about 3" of water in the bottom of a pressure cooker. Place a trivet on the bottom and a bowl on the top. Cook at high pressure for approx 1 hour. Alternatively, this can be steamed in around 2.1/2 hours.

Carefully remove from the pressure cooker or steamer when cooked. Remove foil and allow to sit for approx 10 mins to crisp up and retract a little before turning out. Additional reserved gravy can be poured over the top if required.


I can’t believe about 2 weeks have already passed since Oliver and I made this. The time has simply flown by ! It’s that time of year when I work so much that one day rolls into the next without me noticing. There is just SO much work to be done.......

Bed time is normally around 4am and I’m staggering back to my feet around 7am. For the most part, I cope with it - but every 10 days or so my body says no which results in a twelve hour or more straight of seriously deep sleep. I swear that during that time, I would be totally oblivious if a bomb had gone off and trying to wake me is totally pointless. Oliver will vouch for that ! Thankfully, it’s normally on a weekend when my husband is still around in the mornings.

I’ve had one of “those” nights and thankfully rather refreshed. Bright enough in fact to catch up on some well over due blog posting before I forget to post some of these entirely. After all, my mind is not what it was. I could be crazy, or senile – but thankfully it’s much more likely to be down to tiredness.

A week ago, one of Oliver’s little friends was having a birthday party at an indoor play centre. Feeling guilty that during the winter months Oliver (like me) has a non-existent social life, I decided to pull him out of nursery and take a couple of hours away from work to take him to Finlay’s party. Work could wait.... just a little while. After all, the world wasn’t going to stop turning just because I’d taken two hours out. We arrived about 15 minutes late. No big deal I suppose – and fairly normal for me at the moment given the hectic schedules I’ve been running to. Oliver was proudly carrying the little present and card we’d got for Finlay and was super excited about the party and seeing his friends.

Tears flowed.

Lots of them.

Bad Mummy had got it wrong. The party wasn’t today – we’d arrived a MONTH early ! No amount of apologies or chocolate could make it right. Yeah. Sometimes even chocolate is not enough to win over a kid..... Even a kid that loves chocolate.

I joke not – Oliver’s little face was STILL tripping him when I picked him up that night. I agreed to the request to make cake. I sort of made it up to him after work on the Saturday after work and took him (by special request) to the cafe at Goodies Farm shop too. He loves sitting in there and having some lunch, with a drawing book and a pile of crayons.

We had a good couple of hours the next day (last Sunday) too. I’d booked tickets months ago to take him to see “Roary The Racing Car”. We had ice cream in the city before going into the theatre. The seats we had were super – front row, right in the centre. Oliver loved it – but I can’t really say that I got into it. I think I fell asleep once or twice (was certainly on the cusp) although Oliver was rather unimpressed with Mummy for that !

By the time we got home, I realised that I’d lost my camera. It’s ALWAYS in my handbag, and I’d had it with us. That camera goes EVERYWHERE with me. I turned the car upside down. I phoned the cinema. I tried to back track where I’d been. ALL this week I’ve been looking for that damn camera and totally gutted that it was gone. I’d checked my handbag several times. Checked my laptop case, taken a pitch fork to the car. No camera. I didn’t think I’d ever see it again until I got a phone call from the cinema this afternoon. Yes, one of the staff had found a black camera left on the front row on Sunday.

My heart skipped a beat. I’d a load of photos on there of recipes I’ve not yet blogged. I’d photos and videos of Oliver I hadn’t downloaded. “Yeah, it’s a Samsung.”

Hell and damnation. Punch me why don’t you. “Mine’s a Panasonic.”

“Are you SURE ? Why don’t you come and get it ?”

I actually stopped to think. Maybe mine was a Samsung.... “Thanks – but mine’s a Panasonic”.

Nah. I’m sure that I’m sure I’m sure !

I rummaged in my handbag – searching for a couple of Neurofen to kill a migraine that was on the brew. They were in there somewhere. I needed them now. Even if they were lurking with fluff at the bottom I’d find them.

So was a black Panasonic camera.

Saturday 12 November 2011

Loaded Apple Spice Muffins (low fat content) FOODBUZZ #5 14/11/11

I was totally taken in by the stunning images on Anncoo Journal of some wonderful Italian apple cupcakes. Gosh – they looked so good I visually ate the lot off the screen. The ingredients list was awesome too. There was whacking great amount of butter – bound to make any cake taste good.... but not exactly easy on the waistline. Then again, what cake doesn’t add inches to your waistline. Blimey. I’m sure just thinking about it makes mine expand.

Hmm. My apple trees did well this year. I’ve got a fridge drawer full of Bramleys, a shelf full of Empire Reds and a car load of Jonagolds. Apples are bountiful in England in the autumn and winter months. I’ve been good. I don’t each much cake these days. I’ve got an abundance of apples begging to be used. How many excuses does a fat girl (trying to get thin) need to bake ?

I’ve waited a week.

“Mummy .... I need to bake cake !” a little voice chirps up and a fluffy blond head pops round the door.

One. Just one. That’s all the excuse I need.

Three years ago, I was convinced I was going to have a little girl. I had dreams of riding ponies together and threading daisy chains on the grass. Instead, I was nurturing a little boy that would love mud and cars. I worried as he’s start to grow up, all he would want was to spend all his time with Daddy.

 That may well happen.... buy my little boy loves mud, and cars and BAKING with Mummy.

Sure, this is cake, compared to Ann’s amazing Italian Apple Cakes, it’s much lower in fat. That does NOT mean eat six. Don’t eat cake in excess. You’ll get fat. Don’t sue me – I warned you !


Makes 12 > 14
255g all purpose flour
3tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
good couple of pinches nutmeg
good pinch of ground cloves
150g granulated sugar
90mls oil
150mls milk
1 beaten egg
350g finely cored and finely sliced apples ( I used some small Empire Reds, peel left on)
agave nectar (or warmed golden syrup) to glaze

Sift dry ingredients together.

In a separate bowl or jug, mix the wet ingredients together. Combine wet and dry ingredients, (taking care not to over mix) folding in the mass of apples in the final few strokes. It will look like mainly apples and not much batter !

Spoon into standard size cupcake / muffin paper cases in a muffin tray or silicone muffin mould. These need filling more or less to the top. There is so little batter in relation to apples that these muffins aren’t going to give a great rise.

Bake for approx 22mins at 180deg C fan oven until tops are golden and a cocktail stick comes out clean.

Glaze the top with some agave syrup brushed onto the tops of the hot muffins. Allow to cool and serve.


On leaving the house this morning, I put one of these in these in the fridge for Oliver. We’d made 14, though next time, I’ll use the batter to make just 12. Oliver had already demolished one still a little warm before we left. 

Twelve left.

I put the baking tray with the silicone mould containing the muffins on the back seat of the car. I didn’t box them up, as they were still a little warm. I wanted to take them into work to photograph and figured that the lads that work with me would find resisting these futile. What I didn’t forsee was that only 10 would make it to work.

I know what you are thinking.

The smell of my car was amazing. The wafts of warm spices cheered me up no end. Nothing like the smell of Christmassy spices to lift your soul. It made me hungry too.

The tray bounced and slid as I cursed and hit a pot hole that had escaped my notice. The tray slid and two muffins out and hit the floor. Only 10 lots of temptation remained.

I set my lightbox up on a table in the stove showroom to take a few snaps. I didn’t think it would take long before my colleagues would start coming to look at what I had in there. But it wasn’t Colin that was first (despite the fact he usually is). Nor Richard, or Martin. It was a little boy that came in the door with his mum to buy a fire grate as I was just starting to take some photos.

“I’m hungry!” he piped up.

Not much time for photos – they were a little hurried to say the least. I now wish I'd taken some more.

 The little boy and his mum had a cake. Colin, Richard and Martin had a cake. Another customer coming in had a cake as did I .... and the postman. The last two ? I don’t know where they went !

I didn’t eat them. I SWEAR I didn’t eat them.

Wherever they went, that has to be the most amazing fastest cake disappearance I’ve ever seen. Five minutes max and ...... gone.

The paper muffin / cupcake cases are a new design just in. You can find the RED DOTTY HEARTS paper cases here in standard 50mm size.

Sarah-Jane Nash, November 2011 - www.siliconemoulds.com - silicone bakeware moulds.

Thanks for voting for these in the Foodbuzz top 9 !

Sunday 6 November 2011

Not So Sour Sourdough Bread !

I recently went on a sourdough bread class with my friend Victoria. We had a super day and made some lovely things (you can see them here). However, I found that the 1/2 and 1/2 wholemeal and white sourdough loaf we made was pretty much inedible to me. It was just TOO sour. 

I love the idea of being able to grow and nurture wild yeast. I like the fact that it can live dormant in the fridge for practically months at a time without a feed and yet can still be resurrected. Why use commercial yeast after all when you can make your own ? Convenience is of course a big factor ... and dried yeast offers that. It's not so convenient though when you've run out and forgotten to replace it !

I've been messing around with some starter and sourdough over the past two or three weeks trying to find the best way to make a tasty sourdough with a MILD tang that is not overpowering. Most people who love sourdough will be shaking their heads in disbelief I'm sure ..... as many aim to make it as sour as they possibly can. I know this is not the accepted way of doing things, but I'm sure there are probably many other bakers like me who find the taste of sourdough too strong......

For anyone who has not eaten sourdough before, it has a crispy / crunchy crust and a chewy interior. It's very different from commercially produced breads or those made with dried yeast !

There are various websites that list info for making a starter. Basically, it's just rye flour and water mixed together. Each day, 1/2 is thrown out and replaced with fresh to feed the growing culture. By the end of 5 days or so your should have created your own wild yeast which will be bubbly and lively. Unless you are planning on baking, this can go into a tub in the fridge and sit in a dormant state.

To bake with it, you need to take a tablespoon or two of the gloop in the fridge and add twice the volume of  flour and water and mix to a paste. Cover with cling film and leave to sit on the kitchen counter for 12 hours or so until it starts to get bubbly.

Most recipes seem to then add more water and flour and leave overnight to make a sponge. More flour and water, sugar and salt are added to then make a dough. I've skipped that step.

Here is my Not So Sour White Sourdough Recipe.

2 tablespoons of starter from your vat in the fridge
5 well rounded tbsp of strong white bread flour
1 well rounded tbsp of rye flour
mix with enough luke warm water to reach a dropping consistency (much like cake batter !)

Cover with clingfilm and leave on the kitchen counter overnight.

It should be nice and bubbly by the morning. Discard about half (of put it in another bowl if you intend making more than one loaf and do the next following steps to both lots of gloop).

To the remaining gloop, add about 2 > 3 times the amount of white wheat flour and enough water to get it back to dropping consistency. Leave for about 6 hours and it's then ready to bake. If it's not bubbling nicely, this step can be repeated. As long as there are a good amount of bubbles there, don't worry if it is not as foamy as it was after sitting for 12 hours. I've been doing this bit by eye as above and without weighing.

For the bread dough :

500g white bread flour
30g rye flour
10g salt
265g water
tablespoon of honey (or golden syrup !)
220g gloop as above

This can be mixed together and kneaded by hand - or shove in a Kitchen Aid with dough hook for 10 mins. I know, I know sourdough should be treated softly softly... but it is not always as convenient to do the lot by hand. I had several things going on tonight in the kitchen whilst my trusty Kitchen Aid worked my dough.

Once the dough is kneaded and has become soft and silky, put it back in the mixing bowl and cover with either a plastic shower cap or some cling film and leave for approx 3 hours until risen by about 50 > 75%

Take out, knock back and shape as required. You can see the air bubbles in my dough. I've knocked it back a bit, but don't want to be so harsh as to knock all those lovely bubbles out. There were much larger surface bubbles than this, but unfortunately my photos were out of focus.

Place on a baking tray, cover with cling film and leave for around another 1.1/2 hours before baking. You need a relatively warm kitchen for bread to rise. I've currently got my tumble drier on to dry the washing - so the dough is rising slowly but steadily.

Alternatively, you can let it rise in a banneton cane basket before turning on to a baking tray just prior to putting in the oven. DON'T PUT THE BANNETON IN THE OVEN !

A banneton will put artisan rings on your loaf and helps it keep shape and not spread. The dough will stick to the cane unless the banneton has been sealed with a slip of cornflour and water before first use. To the dough I put in these bannetons, I added a handful of roughly chopped kalamata olives.

This recipe makes approx 1kg of bread dough - enough for one large loaf or two small ones. 

Once risen, you can either leave as is, or glaze with egg wash. On the large loaf shown below, I've slashed it diagonally a few times with a serrated bread knife.

I bake at 220deg C , turning down to 180deg C after 10 minutes until done. Just before you put the bread in the oven, pour some boiling water into a roasting tin and place on the shelf below the bread. It's the water in the tray that helps develop the crust.

My large loaf takes about 40 mins and the small ones about 25 to 30mins. They are done when you tap the bottom and they sound hollow.

This is how the large glazed loaf turned out.

I was a bit stupid turning the ones out the bannetons. I turned them out on to my hands (unfloured) and the dough typically stuck to my hands ! By the time I transferred the dough to the baking trays - it was rather distorted .... 

Oh well - as long as it's edible - I'll forgive it for not being beautiful !

And here are the smaller distorted loaves made from the second batch of dough (with Kalamata olives). You can see both loaves sliced together at the top of the blog post.

Sarah-Jane Nash, November 2011 - www.siliconemoulds.com

Saturday 5 November 2011

Rumbledethumps With Stuffed Chicken Thighs

Rumbledethumps - what a funny word. It certainly made Oliver giggle !

He seemed to like it though and gobbled the whole lot up at warp speed. Leftovers are easily reheated the following day.

Rumbledethumps is a traditional Scottish dish similar to Colcanon. It's smooth mashed potatoes, cooked savoy cabbage and some onions that have been sweated off to transparent. Mix them all together add some butter, a good grating of nutmeg and season with salt and pepper. Dress the top with some cheddar cheese if you wish (though I used some parmesan) and shove in the oven to finish off.

No real amounts here - but I did weigh what I used tonight :

650g floury potatoes
200g cabbage
1 medium onion

I'm sure you get the idea. This is enough to serve 4 > 6 people. We like plenty for left overs the next day !

I would have liked to have had it in the oven a bit longer to get some colour on top - but when a 3yo is hungry, aesthetics are the last thing on your mind....

For the stuffed chicken thighs, I boned two per person and left the skin on.

Then stuffed the middle with 1/2 a butcher's pork sausage, some chopped fresh herbs (thyme and oregano) and a little lemon zest. 

Tied up with wasteful kitchen twine (I was in far too much of a hurry to look for enough silicone rope ties scattered through various kitchen drawers !)

Roasted in my halogen oven at 200deg C on bottom rack for approx 20mins

Simple, cheap, quick and easy family meal !

Sarah-Jane Nash, November 2011 - www.siliconemoulds.com 

Thursday 3 November 2011

Rainbow Cake and Chocolate Cake - Oliver's 3rd Birthday Cake Fest.

Yes - Oliver - aka my Little Cake Tester,  is 3 ! It was his birthday last Tuesday and we had a steam train ride with his friends last Sunday which was super fun. Seems an eternity ago now already. Hard to believe it's 3 years since I was given the most beautiful little bundle I'd ever set eyes on.

Asked what he wanted for his birthday " Cake Mummy, just cake ! A big round chocolate cake and cupcakes to take to nursery.... and a Handy Manny cake with a car on it for my party"

Hmm. Not just one cake then. More like lots of cakes.... and lots of work

We started with this. After all, I couldn't not make my little rascal a cake to cut on the morning of his birthday ! A great big fudgy chocolate cake and a load of cupcakes with pirate toppers and flags. Did I mention Oliver likes pirates ? Ok - he's mad about pirates at the moment ...

This was not all the cupcakes - there were 24 of them and I put them all into little individual sealed pods after taking the photo, ready for the next morning.

At 8.30am....

There was chocolate cake for breakfast ... and a helicopter... 

Don't worry. My kid doesn't normally eat cake for breakfast, but it's allowed on birthdays !

Oliver was very happy with the chocolate cakes, and the cupcakes seemed to go down a storm at nursery. We even posted a few to relatives and they seemingly arrived intact !

For the party, I'd arranged a steam train trip for 10 kids and 9 mummies. In the end 3 daddies and a nanny came along for the ride too ! I started making the cake you see at the top on the Saturday night after Oliver went to bed.

I admit it. I had every intention of copping out. I had bought a plastic Handy Manny car and intended making a simple sponge cake, fondant covering and then plonking said car on top.

Plenty of excuses.

I'm still not well.
I'm tired an have been working FAR too much
How many cakes does a 3yo need ?

But then again, what sort of food blogging mummy would I be to cheat and make a boring cake decorated with a plastic car ?

The challenge was on.

Something different. Something with wow factor. Shocking even - since it was also Halloween.

Have you ever heard of a Rainbow cake ? Six sponge layers like a rainbow. A hideous amount of food colouring. Layered with white swiss meringue buttercream.

I'd heard of it- but I'd never made one. I'd never even tasted swiss meringue buttercream either never mind made the stuff. 2am and no time to practice. It would either work, or be a mad rush for a cake at the supermarket in the morning !

Made the cake layers, made the swiss meringue buttercream. 

Fondant covered the cake - that was hard. Didn't realise it should be refrigerated before covering this stuff. Swiss meringue buttercream has the texture of whipped cream ! Finish wasn't too bad. Ditched the plastic car idea and made a giant black topper with cut out skull and crossbones detail so the white icing shone through.

Cake looked cute, boyish and totally disguised what lay within....

Oliver ready to cut his cake.... 

and this is what was inside !

No one had seen one of these before and it certainly got it's fair share of attention. I felt like a kid again myself. It didn't look anything spectacular when putting it together but was rather breath-taking when sliced !

It's really funny to see kids with multi coloured cake crumbs all over their face. :-)

This is not an original idea. I found it at www.whisk-kid.com . The original recipe is here

Rainbow Cake 

225g salted butter
400g caster sugar
5 egg whites
2tsp vanilla extract
400g self raising flour (sifted)
30g cornflour
350g luke warm milk

Weigh your mixing bowl.

Cream butter and sugar. Beat in egg whites followed by some of the flours, then some milk, more flour, more milk and vanilla until all incorporated.

Divide the mix equally into 6 bowls. I had 260g of mix in each bowl.

Add a stupid amount of gel paste food colouring to each until a very vibrant colour is achieved. I used red, orange, yellow, green, blue and violet.

Butter and flour (or grease and line) an 8" diameter silicone baking mould or standard tin for each bowl of mix. I made two cakes at a time. These cooked at 170deg C fan for about 13 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

You could layer this with normal vanilla buttercream and it would be lovely. For me, the jury is still out on the Swiss Meringue Buttercream. I didn't much care for it before it went on the cake, but as a filling it was light, fluffy and quite tasty. I wouldn't want much of it though. Then again, I SHOULDN'T be eating cake anyway !

 Swiss Meringue Buttercream (Whisk-Kid has a fantastic tutorial )

9 (NINE) egg whites
350g caster sugar
450g butter
2 tsp vanilla
100g white chocolate (melted and at room temperature)

Look at the link to the tutorial. I could not have made the SMB without it. I'd have chucked it out at the soupy stage !

Put the egg whites in a pan with the caster sugar over a low heat. Lightly whisk in the pan on the heat until the sugar is dissolved and the texture is no longer gritty.

Put this into a stand mixer and whisk until cool. Add tiny knobs of the butter and whisk until these totally disappear before adding more. It will eventually look really soup like. Whisk the life out of it for about 5 mins.. If it refuses to thicken up to whipped cream consistency, bung it in the fridge for 30 mins and then try again. Mine needed the time in the fridge... 

Vicky was good enough to video the cake cutting for me...

A labour of love for the little one I treasure most.

 Happy 3rd Birthday baby. All those cakes were worth every minute to see the smiles on your face !

Lots of Love Always, Mummy xx