Wednesday 23 May 2012

Bran Breakfast Muffins - So Moist and Full of Flavour ! - FoodBuzz no 2

Ok - so you read the title and almost passed on by. Curiosity got the better of you. BRAN muffins ? How can anything made of bran taste good ?

Well - I remember my grandmother buying bran muffins when I was a little girl. When Gran had those, we'd get a biscuit out the tin. You see, Gran told us those bran muffins were to help her tummy work better - but weren't very nice.

One day when we were visiting, my grandfather gave us 1/2 a bran muffin each whilst my gran was out somewhere. I knew then that she just wanted to keep them for herself - those bran muffins were SO good !

It's been a long long time since I ate a bran muffin. Many years in fact. Yesterday, I picked up some stoneground flour and bran from Letheringsett Watermill and it was a perfect excuse to make some tasty bran muffins.

These bran muffins were absolutely delicious and are packed full of fibre. Oliver had one for breakfast and another late afternoon today. He reckons that these and the chocolate cupcakes  are his all time favourites. Given the way he wolfed these down, I think that's true !

BE WARNED - Bran is an effective and natural laxative effect as does molasses / black treacle, so don't overdose on muffins !?! More than one certainly gets things moving !

RECIPE (makes 10) - EASY

75g wheat bran (normal bran - not breakfast cereal !)
225g wholemeal flour (you can substitute with normal white flour)
1 cup / 250ml  of whole milk
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 cup of raisins (optional)
1/2 cup of tea (optional)
3tsp baking powder
4 tablespoons black treacle
1/2tsp salt
1 egg
150g soft brown sugar
100ml sunflower or vegetable oil
2tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1tsp ground ginger (optional)

First, make a cup of black tea ! Soak 1/2 a cup of raisins or sultanas in 1/2 a cup of hot tea for about 20 mins to plump them up.

Heat the oven to 180deg C Fan and line a 12 hole silicone muffin mould or tin with paper cake cases.

You will need two bowls.

In the first bowl, put the bran, milk, lemon juice, oil, egg, sugar and black treacle. Mix well to combine. Drain the tea and add the raisins to this bowl. Set aside for at least 10 minutes

In another bowl, mix the flour, spices, salt, baking powder together. Add the bowl of wet ingredients and stir to combine. Stop as soon as dry ingredients can no longer be seen.

Spoon into your prepared muffin mould or tin. This doesn't rise a lot, so the cases will appear rather full.

Bake for approx 20 minutes until a cocktail stick comes out clean (mine were done in bang on 20mins).

Remove from the oven and brush the tops with some warm honey to glaze.

I know - they don't exactly look exciting....but make them once, and they'll stay in your recipe book forever.

Couldn't resist sharing this photo from earlier this month. I was in the city, and took Oliver into Bella Italia for something to eat. He had chosen cod goujons, then changed his mind and opted for spaghetti and meatballs.

My heart sank as realisation sank in that my child would shortly turn into a tomato sauce covered spaghetti monster..... and that's exactly what happened next.....

Sunday 20 May 2012

Little Viennese Whirl Cookies / Biscuits

These are so adorably small and something that would not look out of place on a cake stand when serving afternoon tea.

I've always been a fan of viennese whirls. They're buttery and melt in your mouth.

Recipe is adapted from Olive Magazine (May 2012)

Made 17 cookies (34 pieces)

175g soft salted butter
90g icing sugar
1 tsp rosewater
175g plain flour
80g cornflour
50ml water

Beat together the butter, icing sugar and rose water. Mix in the rest of the ingredients to form a smooth, paste like dough. Mix it enough to combine, but work as little as possible.

Put in a piping bag with a small star nozzle and pipe whirls of approx 2" / 50mm diameter.

As you can see, I piped mine on to the large side of my red double sided macaron mat. Yes - these are great for baking cookies too ! The recipe was enough to make 36 pieces / 17 cookies when filled. The benefit is that all your cookies end up the same size and the markings are already on the mat so you can space evenly and get lots on one tray.

Bake at 150 > 160deg fan for approx 10 minutes until just beginning to get a little colour, but still pale.

Allow to cool for 3 or 4 minutes, then remove and place on a wire rack until fully cooled.


To fill, I used most of a jar of warmed and sieved strawberry jam. I them boiled it for a few minutes to thicken a bit more.

I spread some of the jam on  the back of one biscuit, and some buttercream on the other and sandwiched together. Yum !

Wednesday 16 May 2012

Cookie Jar Envy ? Button Sugar Cookies.


Okay. I admit it. I get cookie jar envy.

All these gorgeous cookies I see on other people's blogs make me seriously envious. I want to make cookies that look just like those. The only thing is, I'm not REALLY a cookie fan..... but they look so darn good.

The only cookies Oliver likes are the seriously chocolatey cookies I make. Those and the pistachio ones (never blogged those yet) are the only type we really like.

I must say though, after making and photographing these, I'm ENVIOUS of my OWN cookies ! Not that they are mine really..... I sent them to my mum. But they are so pretty I felt like cuddling them :-)

How sad is that.... !

I made the button cookies in our GREAT BIG BUTTONS silicone bakeware mold. This button style mould has proved extremely popular in the smaller size for making chocolate buttons and for cupcake toppers.

This mould is ideal for great big chocolate buttons, cookies, boiled sugar candies, beeswax, hand soaps etc.

Don't they look cute ?

I also made this EDIBLE gift tag from Belgian Chocolate. Yes - I can up with two different new mould designs to make edible gift tags. One mould makes large edible tags (like big luggage labels) and the other one makes two sizes of smaller edible gift tags suitable for smaller gifts or to put on top of cupcakes.

There are a range of different sentiments in each cavity, and some blank ones for icing / piping your own message.

I so WANT it. Why can't someone send this to me ? Doubt that will ever happen. Maybe I should make some more. Steve, roll over. I want to cuddle the cookie jar.... haha - maybe just a bit too far....

This is some resin pieces made in the same mould. I later turned these into hair slides, but they would make awesome zip pulls or mobile phone charms too.

The biggest button cookie is 2" / 50mm diameter and the smaller one is 1.3/8" / 35mm diameter.

The large tag is 4" / 100mm long. The smaller tags are 55mm and 35mm long. The mold even makes the hole in the tag for you to thread your ribbon!  I did a blog post recently about tempering chocolate which you may find helpful.

Here is the sugar cookie recipe I used :

225g salted butter
225g white granulated sugar
480g plain flour
1 large egg, plus a yolk
1/2 tsp baking powder
2tsp vanilla extract

Cream butter and sugar. Mix in egg and yolk. Add flour and baking powder, then bring together to a dough.

As you are baking this in a mould, there is no need to refrigerate the dough prior to baking (stops it spreading)  as when in the mould, it has nowhere to go !

Preheat the oven to 160deg C fan.

Pinch off pieces of the dough and press into the cavities. I baked the large ones first and the smaller ones separately. It you want to be exact, I used 18g for the large cells and 7g for the small cells. Actually, I found it  really quick to pre-weight loads of little pieces of dough and squish them in rather than trying to remove excess by overfilling.

Bake for approx 10 mins until just starting to colour. Remove from oven and tip out the cookies on to the baking tray. I then popped them back into the oven - approx 5 mins for the large ones and 3 mins for the small ones just to finish off the other side. Of course, you could bake the full time in the mould, I'm probably being over picky !

Go forth, bake cookies and be happy :-)

Friday 11 May 2012

Salted Caramel Macarons

Oh my goodness. These macarons were to die for. 

I made these for my husband to take as part of the refreshments for a training day for 4x4 response people after a navigational challenge. I think they were all in need of a hot cup of coffee and a sugar rush when they arrived - it was a seriously miserable wet day.

I only had one. I was almost vexed to give these macarons away. They tasted so, so good !


200g icing sugar
180g ground almonds
180g egg whites (split into 2 batches)
1 tablespoon black treacle
1 tablespoon Camp Coffee 
80ml water
200g caster sugar

Finely grind the almonds and icing sugar together until it no longer feels gritty when rubbed between your fingers. Sift into a large bowl. Add one batch of egg whites, the treacle and camp coffee. Stir to combine into a thick paste.

Put the caster sugar and water into a pan and boil until the syrup reaches 110deg C.

At this point, whip remaining egg whites to firm peak.

Remove sugar syrup from heat when it reaches 118 > 120deg C. Pour this in a slow stream onto the egg whites whilst whisking constantly. You will need a hand or stand mixer for this. I prefer to use my hand mixer when making macarons. Whisk until thick and shiny and fairly cool.

Fold into the paste with a spatula until a ribbon of mixture fades into the surface within about 30 seconds.

Pipe on to on of our revolutionary double sided silicone macaron mats. We now also have these mats in bright red and they should be on the website next week.

You want to leave about 5mm space around the macaronage on the mat as you pipe. Once it's sat and relaxed for a little while, it will spread.

Normally, when making macarons you need to add a lot of food colouring to retain a good coloured shell. By that I do mean a seriously hefty amount of food colouring. You will find however that the macaronage here will look very pale as you pipe it out. Once in the oven, the camp coffee and black treacle seemed to work some kind of magic and the shells came out a glorious caramel colour.

I sprinkled the tops with a few Maldon Sea Salt Flakes prior to baking.

Put in a preheated fan oven at 160deg C for 5 mins with the door open, then close the door and bake for another 18 > 20 minutes until done.

I've no idea what happened to the 3 or 4 shells on the top tray at the back left hand corner. These cracked - and I haven't had a macaron shell crack in months !

For the filling, I made some vanilla buttercream. Replacing the milk in the buttercream with double cream gave it a very smooth and somewhat lighter texture than normal buttercream despite adding a few more calories. 

Seriously. If you are going to make these, don't think about calories. You'll have nightmares.... They may be small, but calorie content has to be worse than you could imagine.

Allow the shells to totally cool before removing from the mat. This takes longer than you might think !

For the salted caramel filling :

400g of extra thick double cream
250g golden syrup
add sea salt flakes (such as Maldon) to taste

This will make about double the required caramel you need - but it will store in a covered container in the fridge easily for a couple of weeks (if you can leave it alone!)

Put in a pan and boil together until coating the back of a spoon quite well. Takes about 10 minutes and will thicken more when cooled.

If when cooled it is too runny, pop back in the pan and boil a little longer.

The vanilla buttercream was totally made by eye. 

Combine about 100g of softened butter with powdered icing sugar, 1tsp vanilla extract and a little double cream and beat until you have a thick, fairly stiff buttercream. You only want to make about 1 > 1.1/2 cups finished amount.

Pipe a ring of buttercream on to one macaron shell. Add about 3/4 of a teaspoon of the caramel in the centre. and then sandwich the two together.

The purpose of doing this is to retain the caramel in the middle. I like a decent amount of filling in macarons. You won't keep much caramel in the macaron without the buttercream retaining walls as the caramel will loosen at room temperature, whereas the buttercream will gain a hardened surface on the exterior and stay creamy and smooth inside.

These will keep 1 to 2 days and the recipe makes 25 macarons (50 shells) of 50mm / 2" diameter.

I also made two dozen of Oliver's favourite chocolate cupcakes (see blog for pirate cupcakes) - each with 1/2 and Oreo on top. I hope everyone was suitably refreshed !

One cupcake didn't make it that far.....

Tuesday 8 May 2012

Sour Dough Pizza - blog entry for Rach86 ( and a really nasty starter !)

This blog entry is for Rach86. Rach 86 asked on one of my earlier blog posts if I had (or knew of anyone) who had used sour dough  to make pizza base / crust.

Basically - the answer was  no. I started playing with sour dough some months ago, but have been so busy over recent weeks that it my starter has been in a neglected, dormant state in the refrigerator.

Well - this is what I found when I went to get it out....

Eww. Not nice. Looked like a cross between worms and a shag pile carpet. Needless to say, this MUST have got contaminated some how and gone off. On scraping off the thick carpet on top, it LOOKED ok underneath and didn't smell untoward..... but it went in the bin anyway !

Thankfully, I had another two containers with starter in the fridge. Mother and Daugher. This one had been Grand-daughter and the one I tended to use the most.

I took a good spoonful of Mother and the same of Daughter. These went into a bowl with some wholemeal flour (because that's what I already had out) and some water. I left it on the counter, and 24 hours later it was bubbling rather ferociously and ready to go.

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 tablespoon of rye flour (gets it "going")
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.

Thankfully, I had another two containers with starter in the fridge. Mother and Daugher. The woolly one was Grand-daughter and the one I tended to use the most.

I took a good spoonful of Mother and the same of Daughter. These went into a bowl with some wholemeal flour (because that's what I already had out - I normally use white as above) and some water. I left it on the counter, and 24 hours later it was bubbling rather ferociously and ready to go.

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 :

550g white bread flour
10g salt
265g water
tablespoon of honey (or golden syrup !)
220g gloop as above

I made my dough, gently kneaded for about 10mins and then left if in the bowl covered with cling film for about 6 hours whilst I was out.

On return, I used some of it right away rather than waiting for an extra rise. The rest went back in the bowl, in the fridge and was made into a loaf this morning.

Sour dough is EXCEPTIONALLY sticky. I floured the bottom of this tray and then rolled the sour dough out on to it. The dough was very thin - the way I like it - in the middle and a bit thicker on the edges. In retrospect, I should have oiled the centre of the base of the tray. It was a bit of a devil to get off after baking .... but I did manage eventually without tearing it.

Incase you are wondering HOW sticky sour dough is.... it was strong enough to "fix" one of Oliver's broken toys when super glue just couldn't do it. Oliver and Steve found it pretty hilarious that I'd mended the truck with bread dough !?!

DO make sure you put anything that touches sour dough immediately into water. If it gets a chance to dry out first, it sticks rock hard and is near impossible to move. 

Here you go - it's nothing fancy. 

Some tomato base, THREE left over meatballs, meat from two chicken drumsticks, a bit of onion, a grilled red pepper and some chilli. Basically that was everything in the fridge.

Turned out nice. Base was lovely and crispy. Would I do it again? Yes.

Hope that helps !

Well - what have we been up to ? Not a lot .... really.....

This is Echo. My other baby. Besides Oliver that is. He's the loveliest, cuddliest, kindest horse in the whole wide world. Echo is 14yo (maybe 15 - I need to check !) and he's been with me since a foal.

Echo has been really poorly this last week as he had a  laminitis attack. I had to phone for an urgent vet call out on Monday as Echo was lying down and in too much pain with his feet to get up. It was a worrying hour or so whilst we waited on the vet to come with strong painkillers to give him into the vein. Oliver was really concerned too and spent quite some time in the field with his arms round Echo. A little surprising perhaps as he's a bit scared when Echo is stood up ..... he's just so little in comparison. He's not normally allowed round the ponies unless he's being carried.

Poor Echo - poor Oliver. Echo was very unhappy and wanted cuddles. Oliver was a bit worried and wanted cuddles. Thankfully, it was one of the few days in the last 6 weeks without rain - so we sat on the ground in the field and mass cuddled whilst we waited on the vet.

When the vet arrived - he was instantly chastised. 

"Excuse me - You were a long time. Our pony is sick you know."
"This is Echo - he needs medicine. He's not well and we've been waiting ages."

"Excuse me - is that the medicine ? Will it hurt ? Will Echo get up ? Will he get better now ? "
"Excuse me - I'm worried."

My boy is pretty good at manners, but for once, I realised just how little he really is.

  A few hours later, we Echo much more comfortable in the stable and the farrier came that night to pack his feet up.

He's improving - though needs to stay shut in for a couple of weeks.

April was SO wet. It rained almost every day. Crazy to think that the photos above were taken last week of MARCH in the most northern part of Scotland and we were paddling about in the sea ! Just a week later, it was all under 6" / 15cm of snow.....

We've barely seen much of the sun since. Roll on some more nice weather.

Sunday 6 May 2012

Mini Jammy Doughnuts / Donuts - Foodbuzz no 4 - 8/5/12

200g bread flour
50g soft butter
1 sachet instant bread maker yeast (or 8g of dried active yeast)
6tbps caster sugar
1 beaten egg
100g warm milk
some of your favourite jam (I used Tiptree’s loganberry)

Make the dough using all the above ingredients the normal way you make basic bread dough. Knead for about 10 mins until smooth, silky and elastic. Allow to double, knock back and shape into small balls. (Makes approx 18).

Fry until golden

To make a quick and easy disposable paper piping bag, you need a triangle of baking paper. The triangle must be equilateral – ie have two sides of the same length. I like to take the roll of paper and fold over one corner back to the length - then cut up where the two triangles join. That give me a large square with a diagonal fold up the middle. I then cut down the fold and end up with two indentical triangles.

Take one triangle. Put the long length to the top and the point facing towards you.Take the top left hand corner and bring it down to the point in the middle. Take the top right hand corner and bring it over the front and round behind to meet the front point at the back. You will now have a cone (as long as you don’t let go !)

Where the points all meet, fold the edge over a couple of times and the cone will stay in place.
You can now put the cone inside a glass whilst you spoon in some jam. Take care not to overfill. You will need to fold down some of the paper at the top – it wont gather like a plastic / nylon / silicone piping bag. 

Once filled and ready, snip a little bit of the point off. You are now ready to pipe the jam. These paper piping bags work fantastically well with chocolate for line writing and decorating.

Once removed from hot oil, pierce a hole in the side of each one with a knife and pipe in your jam whilst still hot. Roll immediately in granulated sugar so it sticks to the hot doughnut.

Thursday 3 May 2012

Scottish Macaroon Bars - These Might Surprise You....

If you have never eaten Scottish Macaroon bars before, these could surprise you. It's not a cookie or patisserie type thing unlike macaroons or macarons. It's a confectionery item / candy you'll find in sweet counters and something I grew up with as a kid.

I think it's quite unique to Scotland. The Scottish have a bit of a reputation for on one hand for having a sweet tooth and on the other, deep frying everything from pizza (no joke - dipped in batter and deep fried !) to mars bars.

This is a very traditional recipe and so easy to make. It's tasty, will send your blood sugar stupidly high and rot your teeth. It will also make you want more. Don't say I didn't warn you !!!

It's a very easy recipe. I managed to keep some on my desk in a tupperware box as I hadn't got round to photographing it. Three weeks later (non refrigerated) it tasted as good as it was fresh and colleagues were more than happy to scoff it.

I seem to have had a chocolate / coconut thing going on this last month. If coconut is not your thing, I promise that this is the last coconut one for a little while.

Note that ingredient's list is VERY loose as to quantities. It's not something you can strictly follow

You'll need  :

A 1kg box of powdered sugar / icing sugar. - expect to use around 600g at least
200g milk chocolate ( I actually used about 125g milk, 75g dark to make it a little less sweet if that's even possible !)
some dessicated coconut, toasted until golden
approx 150g of smooth, mashed potato. Yup - you DID read right ! 

Please note - you want to mash the potato until smooth but DO NOT add milk or butter to it. You want just one medium sized, floury potato which has been mashed.

Add sieved powdered sugar and knead together until you obtain a stiff dough - not dissimilar to making peppermint creams I suppose. Pinch off a little piece and taste it. You shouldn't "taste" potato. If you do, add a tiny amount of water and more icing sugar, then taste again. This can be repeated as requried.

Roll it out and cut into bars. This is VERY sweet. I cut it into 2" / 5cm square pieces and about 1cm thick, which is plenty big enough This now has to sit to dry out. I had to leave mine overnight, turn it and then leave another day.

As soon as it is set and fairly firm / dry to touch, dip in melted chocolate and then roll in toasted dessicated coconut. Place on a silicone baking sheet until set.

That's all there is to it !

I've been so behind in Blogging that I'd better do a quite update on April.

Oliver got a new training / balance bike. These have no pedals so promote balance. He can zip about on that thing SO quickly and his feet were off the ground going down slopes within about 15 mins of first getting on it.   The idea is that kids never have the need for stabilisers, but move right on to a pedal bike.

We also decided he was big enough to move out the cotbed. We've been decorating his room and Oliver now has a big boy cabin bed. There was a lot of excitement building it with Daddy !

Desperate to go to bed even before we get covers on it !

Didn't take long at all for the toys to move in underneath. I THOUGHT it would tidy up my living room, but they are constantly carted downstairs.... Room isn't quite finished yet. Steve is painting space ships / aliens / planets on the walls.

Oliver scoffing one of Tim Kinnaird's macarons at Wymondham Farmer's Market. 

I was told immediately after that we had to bake more macarons. They're requested on a regular basis.

Sarah-Jane Nash, May 2012