Why – Feasting is Fun?

Hi, it’s a good question if you think about it!

When I looked up Feast/Feasting/To Feast in the dictionary the simple translation was ‘to eat sumptuously’!  Ooh that’s a long word, but what does it mean to me & why have a blog about feasting??

I absolutely adore food, recipes, cooking and people!  What I’ve come to realise is that I get the most pleasure from cooking or baking something when it is then shared with others.  Whether it’s knocking up a batch of brownies because I know one of our children has had a particularly hard day at school, or trying to find & then perfect a recipe for ginger cookies, after a conversation over the garden fence with a neighbour who had been struggling to find the ‘right’ ginger cookie in the shops.

It’s part of my nature to investigate & develop theories & ideas.  In the garden it may be mixing purple Verbena Bonariensis with Bright Orange Canna Lillies.  Both have completely different structures : the Verbena is frothy on long stems with small wispy leaves that sway in the breeze, whilst the Canna Lillies that I have stand tall & strong with their deep red, thick stalks & leaves, brazenly opening buds of pure sunset orange.  The combination shouldn’t work, but somehow, for me it does.

I take the same approach in the kitchen.  Gooey, yummy, chocolate brownies that are great & loved by all who try them, except me!  Yes they are good, but how can I make them better??

What is lacking?  What would make then not just good but great?  Then I start to play!! The good thing about sharing food is that I’m never short of volunteers!  And so the journey starts, adding nuts : which taste the best & compliment the brownie, rather than fighting against it?

It’s so much fun!  I get to bake & play with tastes & textures & at the same time SHARE the food I am making!  Ultimately, everyone will have their own personal favourite, but isn’t that how it should be?

Sharing is so much a part of who I am as a person, indeed my whole family are big on sharing, especially my mum & my gorgeous younger sister, whom I both love and treasure their opinions & feedback, especially as they are both very talented and exceptional cooks in their own right.

When I cook or bake something & then share it with another person I feel as though I am physically showing them my love, as much as if they were to receive a hug or shoulder to cry on. Equally food shared can be an expression of love for celebration : my daughter had 2 birthday cakes this year, a chocolate fudge covered chocolate marble cake for our family celebration:

Double layered, chocolate marble cake, covered in chocolate fudge icing - stop drooling!!!! I promise to post the recipe x
Double layered, chocolate marble cake, covered in chocolate fudge icing – stop drooling!!!! I promise to post the recipe x
My Pinkle Star's favourite - the previous year!!
My Pinkle Star’s favourite – the previous year!!

AND an incredibly decadent ice cream cake filled with fudge/chocolate honeycomb & a ton of other ridiculously sweet goodies that you wouldn’t eat everyday, but together made for an exceptional birthday cake topped off with a firework candle that lit up the whole room!

WOW!!! This chocolatey, fudgey ice cream cake can take the heat!!!
WOW!!! This chocolatey, fudgey ice cream cake can take the heat!!!

If I’m unwell (I suffer from migraines among a host of other things that I won’t bore you with!), I’m usually laid up in bed for a few days.  Knowing there’s a cookie jar full of homemade shortbread makes me feel like I’m sharing a little bit of myself, my love, with the children, my hubby & all the wonderful people who help us out when I’m – what I call ‘ out of action!’.

Giving the first ripe pear of the season from the tree in our garden to my wonderful mother-in-law, just because I know they’re her favourite makes the rest of the pears taste better as they ripen!  Or I think they taste better!!

I have found that sharing is not only a way of showing love, but it is fun!  People smile when you wrap up some cake for them to take home, that’s got to be a good thing, hasn’t it??

I hope by reading this blog, not only will you be inspired to try the recipes posted, but more importantly you will be encouraged to share your results.  Drop a few cookies round to a neighbour who you only really see at Christmas, when you exchange cards, say thank you to your post man/lady with a pre wrapped slice of cake next time they knock on your door!  But most of all SMILE, it costs nothing & you will be amazed at how contagious it is, yes you make get a few funny looks (first check to see if you have anything stuck between your teeth!!), but I will guarantee you will get more smiles in return than the dodgy looks!

I’d love to hear how you share, or if you’ve been inspired to share. MacMillan Cancer Care have their annual Coffee Morning coming up.  What better idea than to open up your home & share a morning or afternoon with family, friends & neighbours, whilst raising money & a smile or two for a very worthwhile cause.

Bake plenty of goodies & encourage others to bring along their star bakes , invest in some cellophane bags & ribbon (easy to find & cheap on Amazon UK) & share out the leftovers at the end.

 That’s surely guaranteed to send everyone home with a smile!!!
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Super Easy Shortbread Cookies.

Hello again. I’m really enjoying this blogging lark, I hope you are enjoying my thoughts & recipes too? Please leave a comment if you try any? I’d love to hear how you got on. So let me bring you my Super Easy Shortbread Cookies.

Today’s the day…..all the children back at school. My mind is buzzing with all the possibilities that today holds! All the things I put off during the summer hols to spend time with our 11, 13 & 15 year old children.

I love having them home, they all get along pretty well (not bad for 2 older girls & my boy!) & I shall miss their music/chatter/mess… Well maybe not the mess. But they do fill our home with energy & fun. Still tomorrow is the weekend, so today I shall enjoy the peace knowing chaos is only a day away.

Hmmm there’s jam to be made, not really in the mood for that, tidying – but it’ll only need doing again on Monday!! Cookies! I have nothing really against shop bought biccies but you really can’t beat homemade & these are a doddle!!

SUPER EASY SHORTBREAD COOKIES

You will need :

2 x baking sheets with parchment paper on them.

Cling film (I’ll explain later!)

Make sure all your ingredients are at room temperature : it really makes a difference.

Recipe:

5 oz Caster Sugar (plus 2 tbsp for sprinkling on top)

8 oz Unsalted Butter

1 tsp Vanilla Paste, or 1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/4 tsp Salt (I use Kosher Salt)

1 Egg Yolk (I use large free range eggs

8 oz Plain White Flour

2 oz Corn Starch

Method:

Place butter & 5 oz sugar into a bowl (if using stand mixer use the paddle attachment). The next part is going to be much easier (but not impossible!) if you have an electric mixer, or stand mixer. Whisk or beat (using a wooden spoon) until the mixture is very pale yellow. Now mix in the egg yolk & vanilla paste/extract. Sift in the flour, salt & corn starch. Mix thoroughly, but gently until all the ingredients are combined. Now take a big, deep breath. The smell is scrummy & will help you recognise later when the Super Easy Shortbread Cookies are nearly cooked!

Set the mixture to one side so that you have a clear work top in front of you. You will need a clear 2 ft of space in front of you. Wipe this space with a clean, slightly wet, dish cloth. Taking the clung film unwrap about 12 inches, laying it over the damp work surface as you do so. Magically the cling will lay flat & not become a tangled mess!!!!

Place half of your cookie dough on the cling film in a rough log shape. Using your hands & the cling mould the dough into a log, with a diameter of approx 1 1/2″. Wrap tightly making sure the cookie dough is as even as possible along the log.

Dump half the dough out onto the cling film...
Dump half the dough out onto the cling film…
Using the sides of the cling, alternately shape into a rough log...
Using the sides of the cling, alternately shape into a rough log…

Carefully transfer this to the fridge laying it on a flat surface (the dough will still be quite squishy – I usually lay it lengthways across my palm!). Repeat this process with the rest of the cookie dough. Leave the dough to rest & harden up for at least 2-3 hours.

Preheat oven to 180C (165C fan oven) just before you remove the cookie dough log from the fridge.

Remove 1 log from the fridge & leave to warm slightly for 5 minutes (I find leaving it for this time makes the dough easier to cut & not crack!). Using a sharp knife cut regular discs approx 1/4″ (1/2cm) wide. You should end up with 6-10 cookie discs. Place these on the parchment paper lined baking sheets, making sure there is at least 1″ gap each way between the discs.

Cut the through the dough log with a sharp knife - don't make the slices too thin as the cookies will spread on baking.
Cut the through the dough log with a sharp knife – don’t make the slices too thin as the cookies will spread on baking.

Sprinkle each cookie with a little sugar,  reserving half of the sugar for a final sprinkle over the shortbread cookies once they are baked.

I can only fit 2 baking sheets in my domestic oven & leave the other dough log in the fridge, tightly wrapped for up to 4 days. The logs can also be frozen, tightly wrapped in a double layer of cling film for up to one month.

Bake the Super Easy Shortbread Cookies for 8-15 minutes (it really does depend on how thick you have cut the discs & your oven).

When you start to smell the scrumptious buttery, vanilla smell it’s time to check on your cookies. DON’T PROD THEM – however tempting!!!! They will still be soft & firm up on cooling. These cookies are cooked when they turn a light golden colour. Remove from the oven, careful they are hot!

Leaving the cookies on the baking tray give them a final sprinkle of sugar & leave to cool completely.   Once cool place in an air tight container (I use a large, clip lid Kilner jar, as the sugar makes them sparkly & I like to show them off!!!!!). If you can wait they actually taste better the next day – but who am I kidding?

Yummy - someone put the kettle on? Now where's Polly when you need her?????
Yummy – someone put the kettle on? Now where’s Polly when you need her????? Super Easy Shortbread Cookies.

Pop the kettle on & try one, just to make sure they’re ok!!!    These cookies travel well & I like to pop some in cellophane bags tied with pretty ribbon & pass them onto friends & family. They are also scrummy when shared with a close friend over a cuppa & a heart to heart.

REMEMBER FOOD ALWAYS TASTES BETTER WHEN ITS SHARED!

For lemon shortbread add 1 tsp of finely grated lemon zest to the sugar/butter mixture. I only use Vanilla Extract NOT paste when I make lemon shortbread – I find the vanilla bean paste competes with the lemon flavour. Mix, prepare dough logs, bake & store as above.
JUST A QUICK NOTE: I have found that, when I want to bake some more Super Easy Shortbread Cookies, it’s better to remove the dough log from the fridge 15-30mins (depending how warm the air is. After letting them warm slightly not only are they much easier to slice ( a small serrated knife is good for this), but they are also much less prone to cracking, splitting, falling apart, than if you try to cut them when they are fridge cold!!! I learnt the hard way!!!!

Until next time happy baking & have fun feasting.

Sammie x

 

 

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Lemon Drizzle Cake

Hi, thanks for stopping by. I have a scrumptious Lemon Drizzle Cake recipe to share with you.

Lemon Drizzle Cake with a thicker, lemon icing - mmm yummy!
Lemon Drizzle Cake with a thicker, lemon icing – mmm yummy!  This was made for my brother-in-laws birthday!

 

Phew the last few days have whizzed by. It’s September already, children back to school, veggies all ripening at same time, late summer flowers blooming their socks off, making my garden look gorgeous & way more organised than I deserve the credit for!!

Today I made a lemon drizzle cake for a friends 40th birthday! Here’s the recipe:

1 buttered 9″ cake pan (round/square or loaf pan – whatever you fancy!!) lined on the bottom with parchment paper.

FOR BEST RESULTS ALL INGREDIENTS SHOULD BE AT ROOM TEMPERATURE.

225g/8oz Self raising Flour.

225g/8oz  Unsalted Butter.

225g/8oz Caster Sugar

4 Large Free Range Eggs.

1 Whole Lemon – zest & juice.

1 tsp Vanilla Extract.

1/4 tsp Salt (I use Kosher Salt).

175g/6 oz Icing Sugar

 

Preheat oven to 175C (160C fan oven).

Place butter & caster sugar in a bowl (of stand mixer if using with paddle attachment) and thoroughly mix, using stand mixer, electric whisk or wooden spoon, until smooth,  pale yellow in colour & when you rub a little of the mixture between your finger & thumb you shouldn’t be able to feel the sugar grains.

Crack all 4 eggs into a separate bowl (easier to fish out eggs shell & you won’t ruin your mixture if you get a dodgey egg!!). Add the salt & vanilla extract and half of the flour mix gently & then add 2 eggs. Mix until just combined. Add the zest of the lemon the last 2 eggs & the rest of the flour. Gently mix until thoroughly combined ( the cake will be lighter if you don’t over mix the flour). Add half of the lemon juice & fold in quickly. Pour the cake batter into the pan & cook for 25-35 minutes (depending on you oven).

The cake should be golden brown & spring back from a light touch in the centre when it is thoroughly cooked. If there is still a slight wobble to the centre of the cake, bake for a further 5 mins & check again. Also trust your sense of smell. It may sound daft, but after baking this cake a couple of times I can smell when it is ready (or almost ready & then I give it a check).

When cooked remove cake from the oven and place the tin on a baking rack until cool enough to handle 15-20 mins. Remove cake from its tin and place on a baking rack to cool completely. When completely cooled remove the parchment paper from the bottom of the cake – it’s easier to peel off when the cake is cold.

MAKING THE LEMON DRIZZLE

Place the sifted icing sugar in a bowl & add enough of the remaining lemon juice to create a thick, but pourable liquid icing. Drizzle the icing over your cake in any way your creativeness leads you!! On square/loaf shaped cakes I like a zig zag drizzle, on a round cake I sometimes make the icing a little thinner (by adding more lemon juice) & cover the whole top of the cake. Either way encourage your icing to drip down the sides of your cake. It looks very pretty & people will instantly see it’s a lemon drizzle cake!

Your cake is ready to eat, or you can let the icing dry a little (over time it will set, but to a soft consistency, not hard). If you are not giving this cake away (as I did), pop the kettle on, invite a friend or neighbour round & have a good ole natter over tea & cake.

 

WOW!!! Sparkly Lemon Birthday Cake!!!
WOW!!! Sparkly Lemon Birthday Cake!!!
REMEMBER FOOD ALWAYS TASTES BETTER WHEN IT’S SHARED!

Ps: if you are making this cake to give away I have successfully doubled the ingredients a split the mixture between 2 cake tins. One to give away, one to keep! It’s that scrumm!!

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THICK LEMON ICING, shown here smothering: TEAR & SHARE ICED FRUIT BUNS!!!!

I would love to hear your comments or questions if you try any of the recipes listed. Please post a comment which I will read, enjoy & answer if possible.

Until next time thanks for popping by, have fun feasting & sharing your food!!

Sammie x

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Bread Baked The Easy Way!

My Large Loaf!!

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Hi, thank you for dropping by.

Today is my first day of blogging!!! I’m excited. I’m going to show you how to bake bread the easy way! The sun is shining, so that means my veggie plants & flowers need watering.

I love the early morning smell of the garden, the slight dampness of dew on the grass, the smell of my tomato plants as I brush past them…

Anyhow I’m waffling, you may find that happens a lot! Back to business. Hey, no, didn’t I say that “Feasting is Fun”??

Bread: that’s what I will be making this morning (with the aid of my bread maker). If you have a stand mixer that can do the same job as my bread maker.

Recipe for a Large White Loaf

4lb loaf tin, buttered.

1 1/2 sachets dried yeast or 15g fresh (or I’m using frozen) yeast.

1lb 8oz Strong White Flour

380-400ml Water (warm -body temp)

1 tsp Honey

2 tsp kosher salt

2oz butter

1 large (4lb) buttered loaf tin

Clean tea towel

Place most of the water (380ml) into a bowl (of stand mixer or bread maker if using), add yeast. Swish about a bit with clean fingers to mix the yeast into the water ( rub the fresh/frozen yeast through your fingers until it is dissolved into the water). Add the teaspoon of honey & set to one side whilst you weigh the flour.

Add the flour so it sits on top of the yeast/honey/water mixture. Then add the salt.  Break the butter into 3-4 pieces (it’s best if it’s room temp – but if it’s cold don’t worry, the bread will just take a little longer to rise).

With a stand mixer make sure the dough hook is attached a mix on slow/medium speed for 8-10 minutes. If using a bread maker I use a spatula to manually mix the dough, giving it approx 6-8 good stirs (this amount of mixture is a little too much for the paddle in my bread machine, doing this starts the mixing process & then the machine can happily cope with fully mixing the dough!).

As the dough comes together it should mix smoothly & look soft & elastic. If it looks dry – or the mixing device makes a clunking sound add more water (the extra 20mls).  Be patient it takes a minute or so for the water to become incorporated.  Continue mixing for the 8-10 minutes.

If using a bread maker I use the dough cycle, so once mixing is finished the dough is then left in the machine to prove, until doubled in size (up to 2 hours), I then use the start of the dough cycle to knock back the dough for 2 mins before removing the dough.

If you are using a stand mixer, after the initial mixing process is complete, remove all the dough, place onto a clean floured surface & shape into a ball.  Place into a buttered bowl, turn over once, so the top has a coating of butter on it & cover the bowl tightly with cling film. Place in a warm, draught free place until doubled in size (up to 2 hours).  After this time remove the cling & punch down into the dough gently (feels sooo nice) to deflate the dough.

With either method you now have bread dough ready to be shaped.  Place the dough on a floured surface and stretch it out with your hands.  Fold one end into the middle & do the same with the other end.  Turn the dough by a quarter & repeat the stretching & folding.  Do this twice more.  This is building structure into your dough & this little bit if effort makes a BIG difference to your finished loaf.

Place the dough seam side down into your buttered loaf tin.  Cover with a tea towel & place in a warm draught free place until doubled in size (up to 2 hours).

Just before it has completely doubled turn your oven onto its highest setting, 250C/500F.

When doubled remove tea towel & place the tin in the oven.  I then turn the heat down to 230C (but it’s fine to keep it at its hottest – just don’t forget about your bread!!). Bake for 15-25 minutes (depending on your oven & how crusty you want your bread), I usually tip mine out of its tin & leave it upside down on the oven rack (with the oven still on) whilst I rinse out the loaf tin –

White/Wholemeal 50:50 loaf with added seeds. Delicious - might need a lil more water.
White/Wholemeal 50:50 loaf with added seeds. Delicious – might need a lil more water.

– CAREFUL it’s very HOT!

When the bread is a gorgeous deep golden colour remove from the oven, tip out of the tin straight away, or you will have a soggy loaf on the bottom.  The bread should sound hollow if you knock on the base with your knuckle.

Enjoy the smell!!! There is nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread.

 

Now’s the hard part WAITING!  The loaf needs to cool to just above room temp otherwise it won’t cut properly.

Prep time is no more than 10 mins. Once you’ve made your first couple of loaves you should get into a rhythm & see how easy it is to make your own bread.

Then find someone to share it with.  Food ALWAYS tastes better when it’s shared.

Please let me know how you get on.  I’m not a professional chef but I’m happy to try & answer baking/cooking related questions.

Until next time have fun making each meal a feast!!

 

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