Sunday 28 October 2012

Mincemeat Streusel Muffins (Plain Muffin Recipe Vamped Up)

This was one of last Saturday's bakes that I took to work.

Saturday mornings in the showroom at Natural Heating  can be stupidly busy at this time of year. The other side of our company sells wood burning and multi fuel cast iron stoves. Lets face it, if we weren't busy selling fires and heating in the Autumn and Winter - there really would be something wrong !

Anyway, it can get crazy busy on Saturday mornings. People come along knowing they may need to wait a little while to be seen. During that time, it's a nicety to be able to offer a warm, home baked cake and a hot cup of coffee or tea.

Freshly brewed Italian coffee and home baked muffins and the scent of burning wood in the air just before you come in our door must be some of the best smells on earth.

This is a very basic muffin recipe I've been using for years. It doesn't stop me changing it around and vamping it up. Last Saturday, I actually made 24 muffins. Half of them were the mincemeat streusel and the others had a great dollop of raspberry jam in the middle and the tops had been brushed with butter and then dipped into caster sugar. The muffin equivalent of a jam doughnut.

The recipe for the mincemeat can be found in a previous blog entry here. For this vamped up version, I put a couple of teaspoons of the mincemeat on top of the batter in each paper cake case and them sprinkled some crumble topping over each one.

RECIPE - Makes 10 - or 12 if you vamp them !

240g plain flour
3 > 4 tsp baking powder
175g caster sugar
250mls milk
100mls oil
1 egg
pinch salt

Sift dry ingredients into one bowl. Mix wet in another and then combine the two together. It will be lumpy, and you want to mix briefly - only until dry ingredients cannot be seen. Don't worry about the lumps !

Put into paper cake cases in a 12 cell silicone muffin bakeware mould on top of a baking tray.
 Bake at 180deg C for approx 20 mins or until a cocktail stick comes out clean.

October Visit to Oxburgh Hall

 The following day, Steve and I took Oliver out for a wander round Oxburgh Hall and it's stunning gardens. The last time I was at Oxburgh Hall, was just a few weeks before Oliver was born. They were having a re-enactment day, and when the cannons went off - Oliver certainly must have had a bit of a fright (it was very loud)  it as he kicked 10 bells out my insides !

My cheeky monkey got a handful of stones when we were not looking, then threw then in the moat....

14/10/12 - Oliver and Ellie take a break outside Oxburgh Hall

Looking back at Oxburgh Hall from the Woodland Walk

By the huge wooden doors at the entrance to Oxburgh Hall

Coming down the spiral staircase
Unfortunately, photos were not allowed inside the hall - but Oliver thoroughly enjoyed sliding down the old toilet shoot into the hiding place (priests hole) in the middle of the castle wall. Steve went down too, but had a bit of a struggle to get out. If he had a struggle, I think I'd have been wedged tight !

Tending to the bugs in the gardens at Oxburgh Hall

Mummy and Oliver have a game of "Run and Hug"
Sarah-Jane Nash - - Silicone Bakeware Specialists - October 2012

Gingerbread Pirate Ship - Happy 4th Birthday Oliver !

Another year, another birthday. I can hardly believe Oliver is already 4 year old. It doesn't feel anything like that long since he was my tiny little bundle.

With a Mummy that bakes, the first thing on his mind about birthdays is what kind of cake he want's me to bake. Forget the presents (almost) because the cake is far more important !

Last year, we made chocolate cake and cupcakes and a rainbow cake. As pirates are still his thing, another pirate cake was requested for this year. 

"Please Mummy... I want a pirate cake - just like last year....."

After some persuasion, I got him to agree that we could still have a pirate cake for his fourth birthday, but it would be rather different to the one I made before.

A couple of weeks before his birthday, I got started with a load of cardboard and basically made myself a 3d cardboard pirate ship. This could easily be tweaked to get it to fit together nicely and give me an idea of the scale of the finished ship. 

Turns out, that whilst I was doing this, the bakers on Great British Bake Off were also making gingerbread structures and chocolate teacakes ! I honestly had no idea and watched it on repeat the following evening.

Having never built ANYTHING out of gingerbread  - the biscuit kind - before, I baked the pieces and then took them to work to assemble. My next door neighbour (Bev) kindly came with me to help hold the parts and put it together. The trial actually went much better than expected and I remade the whole lot to make the tidier, sweetie encrusted  version that you see here.

The chocolate sail proved the most difficult to do, and I admit that I did make THREE of them before I actually got one I was happy to use.The mast is made from wooden dowel rod. Everything else is edible. Initially, we tried sticking the sail to the dowels with royal icing - but it's cold in at work (especially at night) and it just was not hardening enough to hold the chocolate on the flexing mast. Bev and I even tried tying the sails on with strawberry laces (edible candy) - but that just stretched and the sail fell off.

Eventually, I used layers and layers of piped chocolate built up on both the sail and the dowels until the two came together and joined.Then a bit more chocolate for strength. It was still very very frail and I really did doubt it was transportable in any way...... I would have loved another sail on the ship, but time simply was not on my side.

Building of the gingerbread pirate ship !
Well, 25th of October and Oliver's birthday. He had pre-school in the morning and nursery in the afternoon. Whilst he was at pre-school, I put the ship in the back seat of mu pick-up. I managed to collect him from pre school and deliver him to nursery without it being seen. Quite a feat indeed when it filled the entire back seat area !

His face was a picture and the ship certainly caused some commotion at nursery. They were good enough to let me take a photo of him with it before letting all the other kids through to have a look. I don't think he could quite believe his eyes !

I've never such a crowd of very excited pre-schoolers .... Their little faces were a picture.
I would have loved to be a fly on the wall when they bashed it up and shared it out later that afternoon..... 

There was so much ship, it took them two days to munch through it all. 

Ah - Happy Days !

Gingerbread Dough
recipe revised from Martha Stewart

5.1/2 cups of regular cake flour (plain)
1tsp baking powder
4 tsp cinnamon
4 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
125g salted butter, room temperature
250g dark brown soft sugar
2 large eggs
1/4 cup (60mls) golden syrup
1 x 454g tin of Lyle's black treacle

Cream butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. STOP the mixer and add syrup and treacle. I tried to pour it in with the mixer running the first time - and it flung treacle EVERYWHERE !
Whip again until combined, them beat in the two eggs. Add flour and spices mixture. You may need to bring it together with your hands at the last stage.

Divide into two balls and refrigerate for at least an hour.

Roll out to approx 4 mm thick (it will rise) and bake at approx 170deg C for as long as required.

Small pieces took anything from 12 minutes, larger pieces up to 24mins

In total, I used 1.1/2 batches of gingerbread. Thankfully, remaining dough will freeze well !

Sarah-Jane Nash - - silicone bakeware specialists

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Great British Bake Off Teacakes - Silicone Semi Sphere Moulds

I guess lots of you have been watching the BBC2 Great British Bake Off television series. Rather unmissable watching for any aspiring baker ! Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry set the bakers some rather tough challenges indeed. There has literally been blood, sweat and tears put into the series.

One of my favourite episodes was when they made chocolate teacakes. Teacakes are a thin chocolate shell filled with a light marshmallow creme and finished with a digestive biscuit as the base.

The bakers had to make these on the hottest day of the summer. Many had problems getting the chocolate to temper and set, as the ambient temperature was higher than the setting temperature of the chocolate. A challenge indeed ! I'm rather glad it wasn't me making them that day.....

Anyway, I decided to have a go at making these delicate orbs. Not faced with a blistering hot summer day or the pressure of a competition, they really were quite easy to make. Aside from the disruption of a not-quite-four-year-old practically flooding the bathroom whilst I was in the process...

If you don't know how to temper chocolate, I did write a short guide.

Always the one to attempt something a little different, I had a play at spattering white and gold coloured cocoa butters into the molds prior to creating the chocolate shell by flicking it from the end of a brush. This gave them a sparkly and almost cosmic appearance and I was delighted with the finish.

The GBBO recipe calls for 400g of dark chocolate, whereas I used 200g of milk and 100g of 70% dark chocolate with plenty left over. I poured a small amount of tempered chocolate into each cavity and simply held the mould at different angles until the inside of cell had the thinnest coating of chocolate, letting any excess run back out into the chocolate bowl for reuse.

I will admit - I was rapidly running out of time trying to complete these BEFORE going into work, so I did cheat and used a chocolate digestive biscuit as the case and sealed it in with more chocolate.

The packet biscuit was a perfect size and thickness for the job, but it was a bit on the hard side - I think homemade would have been better without doubt. The marshmallow creme was also a bit over sweet for my liking and there was easily enough to fill 12 shells rather than 6 as stated....I intend having another go at these and will be making the biscuits this time and playing around with the marshmallow creme filling !

Happy Baking to any of you having a go at the baking challenges. 

Sarah-Jane Nash -

Friday 5 October 2012

Base Madeira / Layer Cake Recipe and Working Late...

I've made a few birthday cakes recently - two in the last week. It's a great excuse to practise some new techniques and practice skills, especially since I don't make larger cakes very often. I've taken to using this recipe for layer cakes. It's dense and holds up well and makes a good slicing piece. It's not going to crumble into a billion crumbs when you cut it.

This Scotty dog cake was made in our new silicone large Scotty dog cake mould (we also do a matching small version for making chocolates). I made up a chocolate recipe batch as original intention was to frost in chocolate buttercream. I used one batch of mix - but to be honest, I should have added another half batch (6 eggs rather than 4) and made it a bit deeper. Always next time !

At the last minute, I changed my mind. It ended up split and filled with raspberry jam and vanilla buttercream and I frosted it in more pink vanilla buttercream with a star tip. I gave the cake a very light covering of the buttercream before piping the rest on with a star tip.

The ribbon originally came from the odds and ends basket at the local haberdashery and had been in my ribbons box for some time. It just worked brilliantly as a collar and I used two brown Smarties (chocolate beans) for the eye and nose. 


300g self raising flour
300g caster sugar
4 large eggs (room temperature)
250g of salted butter (soft - but not melted)
60 to 80ml of milk
2 tsp vanilla extract

Sift flour and sugar together into mixer bowl. Add eggs, milk and vanilla and mix until smooth. Add blobs of the butter and keep beating until all incorporated.

Put into a greased and floured silicone bakeware mould or tin (alternatively use cake release spray) and bake until done and a cocktail stick comes out clean. In an 8" / 200mm dia tin, this takes approx 70mins. It may take less in a bigger mould / tin or longer if you increase the quantity of mix to suit your mould or tin.

bake at 160deg C if using a fan assisted oven.

For the chocolate version, reduce the flour to 240g and add 80g of good quality cocoa powder. A little more milk will be required.

This is the other cake I made this week. Peppa Pig with her teddy - for Amelia's birthday. The bottom tier was two lots of mix cooked in 8" tins and made into a 4 layer cake (with tops removed after levelling). The top tier was one batch split between two 6" tins and made into three layers. It's on it's own board and the bottom tier is dowelled to support it.


I had a couple of late nights at work making these. One night on my own. The second, Martin came in with two of his kids who baked some cupcakes whilst I iced the Scotty dog for their little sister, who's birthday was on Saturday. 

I don't really like being in there on my own late at night. It's a big old warehouse which used to be an American Air Base during the war with the kitchen (as yet unfinished at the top). There is a lot of noise at night. Weird creaks and groans and rattles. Mainly from the roof and the electricity metre - but it does still freak me out !

We know the estate is hunted. Some years ago, my husband saw a ghost in his unit, and Martin (my colleague) has had a ghost (man) walk right past him in the adjoining unit. I'll let him tell you about that sometime. Needless to say, I get creeped out working in there late and had to finish Amelia's cake on the second night as I just couldn't bear to stay in there longer in the dead of night on my own .....

Trick or Treat Caramel Bars

You're forgiven if you thought this was just another caramel shortcake bar....

It's not. It's rather dark and has a wicked twist. Lets say, it's naughty but nice.

An dark earthy layer of crushed oreos and butter lies at the bottom, then a layer of evil chocolate caramel followed by a skinning of chocolate and a scattering of brightly coloured candies. Perhaps the trick is that you'll want to keep my treat all to yourself !


250g of oreo cookies (as they come out the packet - filling and all)
100g of butter
100g of chocolate (half milk, half dark)

For the caramel 

125g sugar
50g golden syrup
1 tin carnation condensed milk
2 tablespoons of cocoa powder

For the topping

75g milk chocolate
75g dark chocolate
handful of m and m's to decorate

For the base - put the biscuits in a food processor and pulse to crumbs. Alternatively, put in a plastic bag and bash them up with a rolling pin. Add the melted butter and chocolate. Stir to combine and then spread out in a 9" square silicone bakeware mould / pan.

Put the sugar and golden syrup in a heavy based pan. Heat until the sugar has disolved, then add the condensed milk and cocoa. Bring to the boil and boil caramel for approx 7 to 8 minutes.

When done, remove from the heat and pour on top of the oreo biscuit base. Allow to cool for at least an hour.

Melt the two chocolates together and pour over the caramel base. Scatter some candies over the top (I used orange, red, green and brown m and m's (Oliver got to eat the blues and yellows !).

As soon as the chocolate starts to harden but is still a bit tacky, score into  at least 16 squares, then place into the fridge over night. Scoring in advance prevents the chocolate randomly cracking when the bars are ready to slice.