Double Chocolate Chunk Mint Cupcakes.

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Hi there, I hope you are having a good day and hopefully this recipe for Double Chocolate Chunk Mint Cupcakes will make you smile and encourage you to get baking!!!!

So late (7.30pm – that’s late for me!) the other night, I was in bed and our lil man popped his head round the door and said “Mummy it’s the school bake sale tomorrow.  Do we have anything that I can take in?”.  Looking at me with his angelic, freckled face and gorgeous green eyes, hopeful, expectant.  Mummy’s can sort anything out, at a moments notice – can’t they????

Well of course we can!  Improvisation is one of the most important parenting tools any mum or dad learns.

So, fortunately my cupboards are groaning under the weight of baking ingredients at the mo, due to being unwell over Christmas – see there’s a silver lining to every dark cloud!  If I was going to bake I was definitely going to blog about it.  Only problem with that is, have already posted Chocolate Chunk Cupcakes (chocolate cupcakes guaranteed to sell and make the most money!), I needed a different chocolate recipe.  So I invented a new recipe on the spot – Double Chocolate Chunk Mint Cupcakes!

They look and taste soooo good!
Double Chocolate Chunk Mint Cupcakes. They look and taste soooo good!

Given my desire to get back to bed ASAP I decided not to frost these cupcakes. Sprinkling each individual cupcake top with chopped up crunchy after dinner mints turned out better than I hoped for.  The crunchy mint chocolate shards didn’t melt, or lose their shape and once cooled provided an excellent topping in itself!  Ditching the frosting also made it much easier for my lil man to transport these scrumptious (WHAT?? – of course we had to try them!!!) cupcakes to school.

Recipe : Makes 33-36 Cupcakes

1lb/450g  Unsalted Butter – at room temp

1lb/450g  Light Soft Brown Sugar

8 Eggs – Large, room temp – pref free range

2tsp. Vanilla Extract

1tsp. Peppermint Extract

1/4tsp. Salt – I use Kosher (free flowing and additive free)

12oz/350g White Self Raising Flour

4oz/100g  Cocoa Powder

8oz/225g  Milk Chocolate Chunks (or chips)

4oz/100g  Dark Mint Chocolate

Method :

Preheat oven to 190C (175C fan).

Place the butter and sugar into a large bowl and whisk (using an electric whisk, or beater paddle in a stand mixer) until completely combined (this is called creaming) and light and fluffy in texture.

A mix of sugars. Dark and light brown and white caster - it was late and it was the best I could do!!!!
A mix of sugars. Dark and light brown and white caster – it was late and it was the best I could do!!!!
It all whisked up beautifully - breathed sigh of relief!!!!
It all whisked up beautifully – breathes sigh of relief!!!!

Add the vanilla/peppermint extracts and the salt. Whisk in thoroughly.  Now add the eggs, one at a time, whisking between each addition – I break each egg into a separate bowl before adding it to the mixture –  it helps keep any errant eggshell out of the batter.  If the eggs are at room temp then the batter shouldn’t curdle, however, if it does start to curdle just add 1 tablespoon of your flour and the mixture will come back together again.

All 8 eggs whisked in and no curdling! I was relieved.
All 8 eggs whisked in and no curdling! I was relieved.

Next sift in the flour and cocoa powder.  Fold this in using a spoon/spatula, using a gentle figure-of-eight movement rotating the bowl to ensure the flour/cocoa become fully incorporated. The idea is to keep the mixture light and not lose too much of the trapped air from the whisked in eggs.

Add the milk chocolate chunks and fold these into the Cupcake batter so they are evenly distributed.

This mixture looks, smells and tastes scrumptious!
This mixture looks, smells and tastes scrumptious!

Line you cupcake/muffin tin with cupcake cases and using an ice cream scoop, fill the  cases 3/4 full (one scoop full).  Remember I’m not frosting these cupcakes so I want them to have a nice rounded top!

Ready....
Ready….
Squeeze.....
Squeeze…..
Plop! The exact amount of batter drops into the cupcake case - brilliant - and quick - and much less messy than using 2 spoons!
Plop! The exact amount of batter drops into the cupcake case – brilliant – and quick – and much less messy than using 2 spoons!

Sprinkle the crunchy, dark mint chocolate shards over the top of each uncooked cupcake, pushing slightly into the batter.

Ready for the oven!
Ready for the oven!

Bake the cupcakes for 15-20 mins depending on your oven.  I usually test if cupcakes are cooked by lightly pressing in the middle and if it springs back it’s cooked.   I DON’T suggest you do this – I did, forgetting there would be melted chocolate on the top – OUCH!!  So, when the Double Chocolate Chunk Mint Cupcakes are risen, with a nice dome shape, lightly press the SIDE of the cupcake top.  If firm remove the cupcakes from the oven, if it’s still a bit sticky and wobbly, leave them in the oven for 3-5 minutes until firm and then remove.

Leave to cool for a good 5 minutes before removing to cool on a baking rack.
Leave to cool for a good 5 minutes before removing to cool on a baking rack.

If you’ve only got a couple of cupcake tins you can pop them on the garden bench to speed up the cooling process, so you can decant the cupcakes, wash the tins, get the next batch in the oven and get back to bed!!!!

Come on babies, cool quickly please?
Come on babies, cool quickly please?

When the cupcakes are all cool, pack into an airtight container, cupcake box for school bake sale or place one on a plate pour a glass of milk and take it up to bed to enjoy!!!!

All Double Chocolate Chunk Mint Cupcakes were sold out in 2 minutes the next day, raising £10 for the charity Mencap!!!

The fun bits……..

Who needs a dishwasher......
Who needs a dishwasher……
When you have chocolate loving children
When you have chocolate loving children

You could easily halve this recipe, should you not have a cake sale to bake for, or, here’s a thought – use the recipe, as is, and surprise someone with a tin/box/plateful of scrummy cupcakes!!

Remember Food Tastes Better When It’s Shared. Happy Feasting!

Sammie x

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Crunchy Seeded Bread

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Hi there, thank you for stopping by.  So today I have this Crunchy Seeded Bread recipe to share with you. And it tastes utterly amazing. Because each mouthful is filled with the taste of freshly baked bread and nutty, mixed seeds, including; poppy, sunflower, sesame and pumpkin seeds. Easy to make, either by hand, bread maker or stand mixer with dough hook attachment.

Crunchy Seeded Bread

Making this bread using my bread maker, stand mixer and by hand. Each method is rigorously tested and gives consistently delicious results. While the seeds give this bread incredible crunch and flavour, especially good when toasted.

 

Country style loaf with one crust cut off.

Recipe : Makes One Crunchy Seeded Bread Loaf

260ml  Water – tepid

7g  Sachet Dried Yeast – I use Allinson easy bake

1tbsp  Runny Honey

450g/1lb  Strong White Bread Flour

4tbsp  Mixed Seed (I used a mixture of poppy, sesame, sunflower and pumpkin)

1tbsp  Unsalted Butter – plus extra for greasing the loaf tin

7g Salt – I use Maldon

Method :

Bowl – refers to bread maker tin, stand mixer bowl or large bowl for hand mixing.

Making The Bread Dough

Place the water, yeast and honey into the bowl.  Swish around with clean fingers to mix.  Add the flour, butter and salt. Do not add any seeds yet.

If using a bread maker set to mix and prove. Add 3 tablespoons of mixed seeds when prompted by your machine during the mixing process.

When using a stand mixer, attach a dough hook, mix for 8 minutes.  Now add 3 tablespoons of mixed seeds and continue to mix for a further 2-3 minutes. Remove dough and place in a buttered bowl cover in cling film and leave until doubled in size (1-2 hours).

And if hand mixing, bring all the ingredients together with your hand.  Place on a very lightly floured worktop.  Knead for a good 10 minutes.  If the dough gets sticky, keep kneading and working it – if you add extra flour the finished bread will be dry.  After a good 10 minutes kneading, the dough should have a smooth elasticity.  Add 3 tablespoons of mixed seeds and knead into the dough until evenly dispersed. Place the kneaded dough into a buttered bowl, cover in cling film and leave until doubled in size, 1-2 hours.

Shaping The Dough Into A Loaf

Turn the seeded bread dough out onto a lightly floured work top. Stretch the dough out and fold each end (a third of the dough) back into the centre. Turn the dough by a quarter and repeat. Turn and repeat the folding twice more (4 times in total).  This builds structure into your loaf.

Shaping the crunchy seeded bread for a loaf tin before it’s second proof.

Into a buttered 2lb place your shaped loaf.

Cover with a clean cotton tea towel and put in a draught free place until doubled in size – 1-2 hours.

Adding The Crunchy Seeded Topping

Lightly brush the surface with water, or spray with water and sprinkle over the remaining tablespoon of mixed seeds, pressing them lightly into the top of the dough.

Risen dough in the tin ready for baking.

Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan, gas mark 7, 425F.

Baking The Seeded Bread

Place the proofed dough into the oven and bake for 20-25 minutes.  The bread should be a golden brown and sound hollow when knocked with your knuckle on the base.  I turn my loaf straight out into the oven rack to crisp up the base for  a few minutes, while I quickly wash the loaf tin up. CAREFUL THE TIN IS VERY HOT!!

As soon as the Crunchy Seeded Bread is baked remove from the oven. Turn out of the tin, if not already done and place on a cooling rack. Leave to cool completely.

Breathe in deeply.  It doesn’t matter how many times I bake bread, the smell is amazing!!

Now you have to wait until the loaf is cooled, or only just warm. If you try to cut through the bread when it’s hot it’ll just go squishy.  It’s worth the wait, I promise!

A sliced loaf of crunchy seeded bread on a wooden board.

Also, allowing the bread to cool makes the crumb lighter, helps the loaf keep it’s shape and is more easily digested.

 

Toasting takes this bread to another level!!
Toasting takes this bread to another level!!

Yummy, scrummy a big bite for my rumbly tummy!

You have to taste this to believe it!
You have to taste this to believe it!

I love eating this Crunchy Seeded Bread sliced and toasted ( I know I’ve also said  that about my Oat Bran White Bread – I can have two favourites?!). Also it is ideal for dunking in soup, eating with chilli – in fact this bread is perfect for any occasion which requires bread!  So I guess you could call this an easy, everyday  loaf, perfect for feasting and sharing!

If you have enjoyed this recipe for Crunchy Seeded Bread you may also like these:

Easy Home Cottage Loaf

Easy homemade cottage loaf
Easy Homemade Cottage Loaf

Seeded Cob Loaf

Seeded cob loaf of bread on a wooden board.
Seeded Cob Loaf

Lighter Wholemeal Loaf

Lighter wholemeal bread loaf.
Lighter Wholemeal Loaf

Baking bread at home is such a rewarding experience and a great way to get children involved in the kitchen. Since it is very difficult to over work bread made by hand, dough is the perfect medium for them to practice with. Also, I find when they have had a hand in making something, such as my Better Than Takeout Pizza they are much more inclined to eat what they’ve made and also try new flavours. And this can work for adults too!

So, whatever you are making, baking and creating in your kitchens, have fun preparing and sharing your feast.

Sammie x

No part of this post may be reproduced or duplicated without the written permission of the owner. Please see my Disclosure Policy.

Crunchy Seeded Bread recipe with descriptive graphics for Pinterest.

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Raspberry Almond Muffins

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Hi there everybody, thanks for stopping by to take a look at these delicious , Raspberry Almond Muffins. Ideal with a mug of steaming coffee for Breakfast, Elevensies, Mid Afternoon Snack, or anytime your tummy rumbles and your next meal is too far away!!

Crunchy flaked almonds hide the moist, raspberry and almond muffin!
Crunchy flaked almonds hide the moist, raspberry and almond muffin!

What I love about these Raspberry Almond Muffins is they aren’t too sweet, they are proper muffins, dense and moist. Each mouthful filled with the tartness of Fresh Raspberries and the sweet crunch of the flaked Almonds!

Just dive right in. So scrumptious!
Just dive right in. So scrumptious!

This recipe is very easy, you can use fresh or frozen Raspberries (defrosted) and from start to finish these can be made and baked in half an hour!

Recipe : Makes18 Muffins

8 oz:250g  Unsalted Butter – room temp

8 oz/250g  Caster Sugar

4 Large Eggs – pref free range

1/4 tsp  Salt – free flowing (I use Kosher)

1/4tsp  Almond Extract

1 tsp  Vanilla Extract

4 oz/125g  Fresh Raspberries (or frozen raspberries defrosted.

4 oz/125g  Ground Almonds

4 oz/125g. Self Raising White Flour

1/2 tsp  Baking Powder

4 oz/125g  Flaked Almonds

Method : Preheat oven to 175C (160C fan)

Whisk or beat the butter and sugar until pale, light and fluffy. I used an electric whisk, you’ll see why as you read through the recipe!

Add the eggs slowly, one at a time, until they are fully incorporated in the batter. The eggs MUST be room temp for the mixture not to curdle (curdling makes a slightly heavier muffin/cake ). If the mixture starts to curdle add in a tablespoon of your flour, whisk away and watch as your mixture comes, beautifully together again!

Next add the salt, vanilla and almond extracts and half of your raspberries (along with any juice, if using defrosted, frozen raspberries). Whisk until thoroughly combined and enjoy the pretty, natural pink colour!!

Oh, just wait - pink is just a whisk away!!!!
Oh, just wait – pink is just a whisk away!!!!

Now add the ground almonds, flour and baking powder.

That pink's so pretty- oh did I already mention that????
That pink’s so pretty- oh did I already mention that????

I now switch to a spoon and finish mixing the batter by hand. Using the folding technique I mix until the batter is just combined.

So pretty and yummy, I just couldn't resist a taste!!
So pretty and yummy, I just couldn’t resist a taste!!

Place 18 Muffin/Cupcake cases in Muffin tins.  Then using an ice cream scoop (or 2 spoons) fill each Muffin case with a scoopful of Raspberry and Almond Muffin batter (if using spoons fill the cases halfway).

An ice cream scoop provides just the right amount of batter!
An ice cream scoop provides just the right amount of batter!
Using a scoop fills the cases in next to no time!
Using a scoop fills the cases in next to no time!

For the final finish, pop a raspberry (or two – depending how many you have) on the top of each mound of batter.

They look a bit like noses!!!
They look a bit like noses!!!

Next evenly sprinkle the flaked almonds over the top of the uncooked Muffins, very gently pressing them into the batter.

When cooked the flaked almonds will hide the tart, crimson raspberry beneath!!
When cooked the flaked almonds will hide the tart, crimson raspberry beneath!!

Place the muffin tins into the preheated oven and bake for 20-25 minutes. Don’t be alarmed if they turn a darker, golden colour than vanilla cupcakes – these Muffins have whole Raspberries whisked into a batter that is 50% ground Almonds  (instead of 100% flour) the darker colour means they’re cooked!!!

So pretty and yummy, you just have to share these!
So pretty and yummy, you just have to share these!

Gorgeous, crunchy on the outside, soft and moist inside. The perfect balance of sweet and tart.

Definitely feasting food, made to share!

 

 

 

 

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Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns

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Hi there, how are you today?  These Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns are so easy to make and are perfect for weekend breakfast with a large mug of Coffee!  They truly define the meaning of Lazy Weekend Breakfast Feasting.

FF Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns
Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns

Obviously, you don’t have to restrict eating these at breakfast time or just at the weekend – although, as scrummy as they are, I wouldn’t recommend having them everyday! These Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns are treats, in fact I had them for my birthday brekkie last year (& that was mid week!).

This recipe was inspired by Ina Garten, the Barefoot Contessa herself.  After following her recipe a few times I fiddled with it a bit.  The buns were scrummy, but I wanted Pecan nuts inside my buns and preferred the use of Sultanas.  I also changed the ratio of ingredients, as I changed from American cup measures to Metric weight.  I was extremely pleased with the results, I hope you will be to and this easy recipe will inspire you to have a go at making these buns!

Pecan Sultana Sticky Buns www.feastingisfun.com
Pecan Sultana Sticky Buns www.feastingisfun.com

Upside down buns

Firstly, I should say that these Sticky Sultana Pecan Buns are made upside down!  That is, they are very similar, in method, to an upside down cake – meaning that you place a brown sugar/butter mixture along with Pecan nuts into the bottom of a deep muffin/cupcake tin, place the buns in top and then when cooked turn the buns out so the bottom of the bun becomes the top!

Don’t worry!  It’s not as confusing as it sounds and I am ALWAYS amazed that the buns turn out perfectly, they never stick and always look so impressive for such little effort.  In fact it really is a Ta Dah moment (I imagine a drumroll in my head!) that never ceases to amaze me and I always end up with a huge smile on my face!

Just a quick note : A proper deep muffin/cupcake tin must be used for this recipe.  A bun/fairy cake tin is too shallow, not only will it be too small for your buns, but you’ll also end up with butter dripping all over your oven.  I also place a baking sheet, a little larger than my cupcake tin, on the rack below, just in case any butter bubbles up and drips over – soo much easier to clean than the whole oven!!

Recipe : Makes 12 Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns

For the Topping:

150g/5oz  Butter – unsalted and softened

75g/3oz Light, Soft Brown Sugar

100g/4oz Pecan Nuts – roughly chopped

1/4tsp Salt – I use Maldon

For the Buns :

450g/1lb Pack Shop Bought All Butter Puff Pastry

1tbsp  Butter – melted

1 1/2tsp  Cinnamon

150g/5oz Light, Soft Brown Sugar

250g/9oz  Sultanas

100g/4oz Pecan Nuts – roughly chopped

Method :

Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan), 400F, gas mark 6

Making The Sticky Bun Topping

Firstly, for the topping of the buns mix the softened butter, sugar and salt until well combined.

Using a teaspoon (not a teaspoon measure) scoop 1/2 a teaspoon of the butter/sugar mixture and place into the bottom of the muffin tin, repeating 11 more times.

1/2 a teaspoon is just enough!
1/2 a teaspoon is just enough!
Each muffin cup has a dollop of the sugar/butter mixture!
Each muffin cup has a dollop of the sugar/butter mixture!

Next, divide the 100g of Pecan nuts between each of the muffin cups, placing them on top of the sugar/butter mixture.  Remember, although this is going into the bottom of the tin, when turned out this will become the topping of the Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns!

The Pecan nuts become caramelised, golden and sticky during cooking. Yummy!!
The Pecan nuts become caramelised, golden and sticky during cooking. Yummy!!

Assembling The Buns

Lightly dust the worktop with plain, white flour.  Roll out the all butter puff pastry, with a floured rolling pin. You need a square shape that is approx 34 x 34cm.

All butter pastry really is essential as it adds to the flaky, buttery flavour of the buns.
All butter pastry really is essential as it adds to the flaky, buttery flavour of the buns.

Next, trim the top and bottom of the pastry square and brush with the melted butter.  Then sprinkle the sugar evenly over the whole of the square.

Don't worry about the odd few lumps in the sugar, they'll just add to the stickiness of the buns!!
Don’t worry about the odd few lumps in the sugar, they’ll just add to the stickiness of the buns!!

Sprinkle the cinnamon evenly over the sugar layer.

The smell of cinnamon fills the house when these buns are baking.
The smell of cinnamon fills the house when these buns are baking.

Now you can sprinkle firstly the Sultanas and the the chopped Pecan nuts, so they cover the pastry evenly.

Nice and evenly spread, now it's time to get a-rolling!!!
Nice and evenly spread, now it’s time to get a-rolling!!!

Starting at the front edge of the pastry, evenly roll over the edge of the pastry, tucking it under itself ( not too tightly). Then proceed to roll until you have a log shape, with the join underneath.

A nice even roll along the front edge of the pastry.
A nice even roll along the front edge of the pastry.
Keep rolling so the pastry is an even log shape.
Keep rolling so the pastry is an even log shape.
Trim the side edges of the log.
Trim the side edges of the log.

Shaping the buns

Next, using a sharp knife, mark the middle of the log. Then mark each half of the log in the middle. Now divide each marked section into 3 separate pieces. You should now have 12 buns!

Use a very sharp knife to slice through each section - so you get a nice clean edge to each bun.
Use a very sharp knife to slice through each section – so you get a nice clean edge to each bun.

Carefully place each bun, cut side up, on top of the butter/sugar/Pecan mixture in the muffin tin. Squish a little bit if needed and don’t worry if a little of the filling falls out in transit, you can always pop errant Pecans and Sultanas into any gaps once all the buns are in the muffin tin!

All ready to be popped into the preheated oven.
All ready to be popped into the preheated oven.

Baking the Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns

Place the tin into a preheated oven and bake for 30 minutes. The Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns are cooked when the pastry is golden and puffed.

Ooh yummy! But be careful, they will come out of oven very hot.
Ooh yummy! But be careful, they will come out of oven very hot.

I just love to watch them bubbling and breath in their cinnamon scent when they first come out of the oven – it’s the little things in life that give me most pleasure!!!!!

Turning The Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns Out

Wait a few (3 ish but no longer than 5) minutes, then wearing oven gloves place a baking sheet (that is at least the same size as your muffin tin) over the top of the muffin tin and turn over. I promise the buns will drop out! Remove the muffin tin and stare in amazement at your gorgeous Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns– all 12 of them!! See I told you, they really are easy and they turn out every single time.

Perfectly turned out Sticky Pecan and Sultana Buns.
Perfectly turned out Sticky Pecan and Sultana Buns.

Leave to cool – remember all that bubbling and sizzling was butter and sugar boiling very hot!!

Serve warm with nothing but a hot drink of your choice, sit back, relax and smile!

Made for sharing

These Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns are perfect for breakfast, brunch, mid afternoon coffee. I think these are at their most delicious shared with friends and family who unexpectedly pop round! These are best served warm, so pop in a 140C oven whilst the kettle boils and serve with a steaming cup of coffee and a smile!

These scrummy Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns keep well in an airtight container for up to 5 days. They can also be frozen for up to 1 month. When needed, remove from freezer, place on a baking sheet and allow to defrost (this doesn’t take long 1-2 hrs depending on the room temperature), refresh and warm in a 180C oven for 5 minutes and serve.

FF Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns
Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns

I really hope that you give the Sticky Pecan Sultana Buns a try as not only are they easy to make, they are scrumptious and everyone who tries them has a big smile on their face!!!

Sammie x

 

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Apricot Oat Crumble Cookies

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Hello, how are you today?  If you’ve taken a look at my blog before, you might have noticed that I rather like Cookies, ooh and Biscuits (is there a difference?)!  This recipe for Apricot Oat Crumble Cookies started forming in my brain last week – but I was out of oats.  Also I am very glad I ordered some with my shopping because these Cookies are scrumptiously delicious.

FF Apricot Oat Crumble Cookies
Apricot Oat Crumble Cookies

I like to play around with textures as well as tastes and with these Crumbly Oaty Cookies you also get nice nuggets of Apricot which have a lovely chewy texture.  The addition of Demerera sugar also adds a very slight toffee taste and extra crunch.  So all good then!

The first batch of Apricot Oat Crumble Cookies were made and baked.  My special friend and chief taste tester agreed to the arduous task of tasting them – it’s a tough job, but she manages!!!  They were given a thumbs up!! Obviously I had to try one as well and they are scrummy, plus with fruit and oats in them they must be good for you.  Well that’s my theory anyhow!

Recipe: Apricot Oat Crumble Cookies make approximately 20

50g/2oz  Demerera Sugar

75g/3oz  Caster Sugar

225g/8oz  Unsalted Butter – at room temperature

1 Large Free Range Egg Yolk

1tsp  Vanilla Extract – I use Nielsen-Massey

1/8tsp Salt – I use Kosher

100g/4oz Dried Apricots

100g/4oz  Ordinary Rolled Porridge Oats (not quick cook)

175g/6oz  Plain White Flour

Method : Preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan, 350F, gas mark 4

Making the cookie batter:

First of all, in a bowl cream the butter and sugars together, ideally with an electric whisk (by hand with a wooden spoon is fine, just ensure the mixture is well beaten.

The whisked butter and sugars. The Demerara sugar gives the mixture more colour.
The whisked butter and sugars. The Demerara sugar gives the mixture more colour.

Add the egg yolk, vanilla extract and salt to the mixture and beat in well.  Take the dried Apricots and chop them roughly into small 1/2cm pieces.  You want the pieces of Apricot small enough so that they distribute evenly throughout the cookie dough, but big enough to be golden nuggets of chewy fruit that contrast with the crumbly cookie texture.

Here's a pic of how I chopped the apricots!
Here’s a pic of how I chopped the apricots!

Into the bowl add the oats, flour and place the chopped apricots on top.  Mix together until just combined.

Placing the chopped apricots in top of the flour helps to stop them all clumping together.
Placing the chopped apricots in top of the flour helps to stop them all clumping together.

Shaping the cookies:

Scoop a desert spoonful of the cookie dough and shape into a ball using your hands. I placed 6 cookie dough balls on both of the baking trays I used. Obviously the bigger the ball, the larger the cooked cookie will be!

Note : Unless you are confident that your baking trays are non stick, it’s best to line them with baking parchment paper.

Lightly press down on the dough balls, to flatten them into an even round shape.

Baking the cookies:

Place the baking trays in the oven and bake for 15-25 minutes until golden brown on the bottom (see photo).  Again the cooking time will depend on the size and thickness of your cookies.

Note the underside is much deeper in colour than the top.
Note the underside is much deeper in colour than the top.

If the bottom is not golden (as above) return your cookies to the oven for an extra couple of minutes.  The first tray I got out of the oven looked fine, however, when I tried to turn the cookie over to check the underneath, it completely fell apart – I put the tray bake in the oven for an extra 5 minutes and the photo above shows the result!

When cooked properly, even whilst still warm, the cookie will hold it’s shape, allowing you to check the underside.  Leave the cookies to cool completely on the baking tray.

FF Apricot Oat Crumble Cookies
Apricot Oat Crumble Cookies

While cooling, ring a friend, or your mum, or someone you’ve been meaning to invite round for ages.  Pop the kettle on, quickly clean up (vacuum, throw some bleach down the loo, anti bac wipe the cat…..). No, no, no!! Whoever you’ve invited round doesn’t want to see you (and the cat!) frazzled to within an inch of your life. Relax.  Put on some whale music if necessary (although if you need that you might want to invite so and so tomorrow – just saying!!!).

If you have enjoyed this recipe for Apricot Oat Crumble Cookies you may also like these:

Extreme Chocolate Cookies 

FF Apricot Oat Crumble Cookies
Extreme Chocolate Cookies

Cherry Bakewell Cookies 

FF Apricot Oat Crumble Cookies
Cherry Bakewell Cookies

Sour Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies 

FF Apricot Oat Crumble Cookies
Sour Cherry Chocolate Chip Cookies

 

Enjoy feasting and having a good natter, with a friend, over Apricot Oat Crumble Cookies.  Have fun catching up and sharing in each other’s news. Because one of the most precious gifts you can give is your time. We all feel loved and valued when others take time out of their busy schedules to share part of their day with us!

I know, because my sister – who is the best sis in the world – took time out of her day for me today.  Thanks babes, love you with all my heart xx.

Sammie x

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Herb Meatballs with Simple Tomato Sauce

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Hi there, as I look out of the window I can see it’s ‘Cloudy – with more than a chance of Meatballs, for dinner!’ I know, very bad joke but I couldn’t resist.  The same way I couldn’t resist making Meatballs today after seeing someone cook them on TV yesterday!!!

Yummy, bites sized herb meatballs in a simple tomato sauce.
Yummy, bites sized herb meatballs in a simple tomato sauce.

I haven’t a clue which, if any, recipe they were following, these Herb Meatballs in a super Simple Tomato Sauce are my own creation!  Let’s hope they are a hit with the family, when served with spaghetti later?  Oh who am I kidding?  Hunger default status is always STARVING with our family when Meatballs are on the menu!!

I’ve used a combination of beef mince and pork sausage meat for these little Meatballs.  I have made them using all beef, but I find them a bit heavy (even using breadcrumbs & egg to lighten them).  I’ve also made Turkey meatballs, but that’s a whole kettle of fish ( not that they contain fish!)!!!!!

Just a quick note : There is a bit of prep work involved in making these meatballs, but the tomato sauce is so quick it really takes no longer than making a bolognaise sauce and the meatballs really do make a delicious change – so I think it’s worth it?  If you try this recipe I’d love to know how get on?


Recipe : This serves 6-8 hungry people!

For the Meatballs

1  Large Onion

1 tbsp  Olive Oil

1 1/2lb  (750g)Beef Mince (pref. less than 10% fat content)

1lb  (500g) Pork Sausage meat

1  Large Garlic Clove

2  Fresh Sage Leaves (1/4tsp dried sage)

3  Fresh Thyme Sprigs (1/4tsp dried thyme)

1tsp  Sea salt (1/2tsp free flowing salt)

1 tsp  Freshly Ground Black Pepper

For the Simple Tomato Sauce

2 x 400g Tinned Chopped Tomatoes

2tbsp  Tomato Puree

2  Sprigs Fresh Thyme (1/4tsp dried thyme)

1/2tsp  Sugar

1/2tsp  Sea salt (1/4tsp free flowing salt)

1/2tsp  Freshly Ground Black Pepper


Method : Making the Meatballs

Chop up the onion as finely as possible.  Add the oil to a frying pan and sauté over a low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes until the onion is soft and translucent, but not browned.

Sautéed onions, ready to cool down.
Sautéed onions, ready to cool down.

Set the pan aside and allow the onions to cool down.  Place the minced beef, sausage meat, cooled onion, salt, pepper, minced garlic and freshly chopped (or dried) herbs.

All the meatball ingredients in the bowl together!
All the meatball ingredients in the bowl together!

Using a fork, gently combine all the ingredients together.  I’ve found, if I squish them together using my hand (I like squishing, it’s fun – so if I could, I would!!!!) the meatballs end up too dense.

Using a fork to gently combine all the meatball ingredients.
Using a fork to gently combine all the meatball ingredients.

Next, scoop about a teaspoonful of mixture and lightly roll into a ball in between your hands – wet hands make the job easier!  Continue until all of the meatball mixture is used up – I managed 54 meatballs!!

Not perfect spheres but they'll taste just fine, once cooked!
Not perfect spheres but they’ll taste just fine, once cooked!

Heat the pan that you used for sautéing the onions on a medium heat – I didn’t add any more oil, but feel free if yours isn’t non stick.  Add the meatballs so they only form one layer in the pan (overcrowding the pan means the meatballs won’t have contact with direct heat and won’t brown properly). Leave them for 1-2 minutes and then gently turn, repeating the process until the meatballs are nicely browned all over (as they were so small I found it easier to turn them in the pan using 2 desert spoons instead of tongs). Remove from the pan and place on a clean plate.


Making the Simple Tomato Sauce

Using the same pan as before, discard any remaining oil safely – it will be hot so allow to cool and wipe the pan with a handful of kitchen roll.  Now add 2 tins of chopped tomatoes, refilling each tin, roughly halfway with water, swill around to catch every bit of juice a pour into the pan.  Add the tomato purée, herbs, sugar,salt and pepper.  Bring to a  simmer and leave to bubble away gently for 30-40 minute.  The Simple Tomato Sauce is done!!

Super easy, super simple tomato sauce.
Super easy, super simple tomato sauce.

Place the meatballs in a large, ovenproof dish and pour over the tomato sauce.  Heat through for 30-40 minutes, until piping hot and then serve with pasta, rice, crusty bread or even a salad!!

Yummy, bites sized herb meatballs in a simple tomato sauce.
Yummy, bites sized herb meatballs in a simple tomato sauce.

This can easily be a GLUTEN AND DAIRY FREE dish if you use sausage meat – without rusk or wheat added (I buy mine from www.graigfarmirgaincs), as no breadcrumbs or egg are added to the meatball mixture.

A delicious dish that everyone (well not vegetarians I guess) that can be shared and feasted on by friends and family!

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Turkey And Leek Pie

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Hello, thank you for stopping by to take a look at my recipe for Turkey and Leek Pie, topped with mountains of mashed potato. Because, this is a fantastic recipe for using up leftover Turkey after Christmas or Thanksgiving. Alternatively you could use cooked chicken such as my Lemon Thyme Roast Chicken.

Turkey And Leek Pie

 

Waste Not, Want Not:

Since the news if filled with statistics and reports of how much food we throw away and waste as a nation, creating recipes using up leftovers is a priority for me. While I am not suggesting you try to make a pie out of the gooey apple, fermenting at the bottom of the fruit bowl, there are ways that we can use up leftovers. And, as many of us eat turkey over the Christmas period and roast chicken throughout the rest of the year, there can be leftover meat. So, having delicious, easy recipes that use up leftovers, makes both practical and economical sense.

While we had a delicious, roasted turkey crown for Sunday dinner yesterday, I was left with a complete, cooked turkey breast. Although I enjoy cold turkey and chutney sandwiches, my aim was to create a meal out of the leftovers.

So, today I decided to make this turkey and leek pie, topped with creamy mashed potatoes. Alternative toppings for this pie could include; sliced potatoes, flaky pastry, savoury crumble topping, herbed breadcrumbs. If you do try any of these suggestions, please let me know how you get on?

Recipe : Turkey and Leek Pie serves 6

1 1/2 – 2 lb  (750g/1Kg) Cooked Turkey  – or chicken, cut into 1 inch/2.5cm chunks note: if the turkey or chicken has been frozen AFTER cooking the pie cannot be re-frozen

2  Medium Leeks

100g/4 oz  Butter (split in two)

1 tbsp  Olive Oil

2 tbsp  Vermouth or White Wine – use Martini Extra Dry

1 tbsp  Plain White Flour – *alternatively to make this gluten free add 1tbsp cornflour mixed with 2tbsp water after adding the milk to the sautéed leeks.

1/2 of a Chicken/Vegetable Stock Cube – I use Knorr

6tbsp  Whole Milk – alternatively you can use double cream (heavy cream)

1.5 Kg/3.5lb Peeled Potatoes (Maris Piper/Desiree or any floury potato suitable for mashing)

2  Sprigs Fresh Thyme

Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Method :

Preparing the mashed potato topping:

  • First of all peel and chop the potatoes, place in a saucepan and cover with water.
  • Add a pinch of salt, bring to the boil and then simmer until tender when pierced with a knife.
  • Drain the potatoes, place them back into the saucepan with 2 tbsp of butter and a splash (3tbsp) of milk. Clamp on the lid and leave off the heat for 5 minutes.
  • Next, adding a good grinding of black pepper, mash the potatoes, set aside to cool.

Creating the pie filling:

  • Chop the leeks into small dice, rinse thoroughly and pat dry with a clean kitchen towel.
  • Place 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil into a frying pan over a medium heat.
  • As soon as the butter melts add the leek to the pan.

Bright green, uncooked leeks. They fill the pan!!

  • Add a pinch of salt and sauté over a low heat until they become soft and slightly translucent.

The sautéed leeks have lost their bright colour and shrunk in the pan as they've cooked!

  • Next add 1 tablespoon of flour, stirring so the chopped leeks are covered in the flour. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes. *see recipe for gluten free option.

The flour mixes with the butter and oil to thicken the sauce once the liquid has been added.

  • Add a splash of Vermouth or white wine. Mix thoroughly over a low heat, cooking for a couple of minutes.
  • Next add 3-4 tablespoons of milk and stir continuously.

The sauce will have a very thin consistency. Keep stirring!!!

  • The sauce will still be thin at this stage. Continue stirring. After a few minutes the sauce will thicken.

After a couple of minutes the sauce will thicken.

  • Crumble in half of a chicken stock cube. Alternatively dissolve the stock cube in a couple of tablespoons of hot water, then add to the pan.
  • As soon as the stock is incorporated have a quick taste and season to taste.
  • Strip 2 fresh Thyme sprigs and add the leaves to the sauce.
  • Set to one side and allow to cool.
  • Cut the cold, cooked turkey (or chicken) into 1 inch chunks and place into a pie dish. Cover with the cold leek sauce.

Turkey chunks covered in leek sauce, flecked with Thyme leaves.

  • Spoon the mashed potatoes around the outside edge of the pie, working towards the centre.
  • Using a fork, ensure the mash seals the pie around the edge to stop any sauce leaking out during baking. Likewise ensure the potato topping covers the pie evenly with no gaps.
  • Drag the fork across the surface of the mashed potato. As doing so will ensure an extra crunchy topping once baked.

Ensuring the mash reaches the edges of the pie dish will help stop the sauce from leaking out during cooking.

Storing, baking and serving the pie

  • At this stage the Turkey and Leek Pie can be wrapped in cling film and placed in the fridge for a couple of days until needed.
  • Alternatively, double wrap in cling and popinto the freezer for up to one month – defrost overnight in the fridge before reheating.
  • To bake the pie, preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan, 350F, gas mark 4.
  • Place the pie dish on to a baking sheet and place  in the middle of the oven.
  • Bake for 1 hour until bubbling around the sides, golden and crunchy on top and piping hot all the way through.

The ultimate comfort food. I like to serve this turkey and leek pie with steamed savoy cabbage.

If you have enjoyed this recipe for Turkey And Leek Pie you may also like these:

Steak Leek And Ale Pie

FF Turkey And Leek Pie
Steak Leek And Ale Pie

Quiche Lorraine 

FF Turkey And Leek Pie
Quiche Lorraine – a great way to use up gammon, ham and bacon.

Roast Chicken Noodle Soup

FF Turkey And Leek Pie
Roast Chicken Noodle Soup

When I am creating a meal using leftovers, it gives me an extra buzz. Because not only am I reducing waste, an entirely new dish is being made. Especially over the holiday period, when large joints of meat are cooked there can be a temptation to simply bin any leftovers. Whereas having a few, simple recipes on hand can actually make it easy and fun preparing meals.

So, whatever you are making, baking and creating in your kitchens, have fun preparing and sharing your feast.

Sammie xx

No part of this post may be reproduced or duplicated without the written permission of the owner. Please see my Disclosure Policy.

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Baking and Why I Love it?

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Hello, I hope you are having a good day. Why do I love baking?

The BEST Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.
The BEST Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting.

Firstly and above all other reasons, I find it really relaxing.  I’m constantly amazed that I really can have a batch of cookies, a cake or loaf of bread baking in the oven in literally minutes!

Secondly I’m always surprised when recipes turn out well.  I’m not sure why this is – as I do have a tendancy to ‘interprete’ recipes, as opposed to following them strictly.

I'm amazed every time I bake these Pecan & Sultana sticky buns. They are scrummy!
I’m amazed every time I’ve baked these Pecan & Sultana sticky buns. They are scrummy!

Thirdly, I have learnt, over the many years of baking and cooking to trust my nose.  Following on from my bad habit if not entirely following recipes to the letter, I also very rarely time things as they are baking or cooking!  I know, sooo bad.  But, since I’ve started my blog I’m getting better.  It’s a work in progress!!!!

Not enough pastry for a Sausage Plait, so made a huge Sausage Roll a cut a diamond pattern to make it look pretty!!
Not enough pastry for a Sausage Plait, so made a huge Sausage Roll a cut a diamond pattern to make it look pretty once baked!!

Next (fourthly didn’t sound quite right?!) I love the smell emanating from the oven as something is nearing it’s cooked stage.  In fact it is this very thing that stops me from timing how long something takes to bake.  My nose alerts me, with alarming accuracy!

As with planting a seed, caring and watering the plant that grows, then picking the produce or flowers, so too, in all types of cookery and baking, the ‘magic’ of turning a wet, lumpy mess into moist, delicious muffins never, ever fails to thrill me.  Yes I make mistakes, but I am all the better for it, tweaking ingredients, methods etc. It’s fun!!

A sticky, wet, Morello Cherry and Almond batter....
A sticky, wet, Morello Cherry and Almond batter….

Once cooked, cooled and sliced looks like this…,.

A moist, cooked cake, with a scrumptious Morello Cherry centre!!!!
A moist, baked cake, with a scrumptious Morello Cherry centre!!!!

Baking and cooking allow me to explore the creative side of my nature and I am never short of taste testers who give me the honest feedback I value.

Lastly and following on from the previous point, I get to share! l love the reaction from anyone I share my food with, whether it be the latest homemade ice cream flavour, devoured by our children and their cousins, or an individual portion of lasagne, given to one of my best friends, after a days serious walking (we’re talking 6-10miles here people!!!), knowing, she not only doesn’t have to think about what to have for dinner, but half an hour in the oven and a home cooked meal is ready.

Sharing is such an important part of who I am and so it naturally translates to my baking and cooking.

Made for sharing, totally delicious & good for you!!! Well they contain fruit......
Made for sharing, totally delicious & good for you!!! Lemon iced baked fruit buns.

Many people’s diet is restricted by the fact that they live alone.  If I’m making a Chilli for five of us it’s not any bother to make it for 6 people and it is always greatly appreciated.

None more so than by me.  The week following our eldest daughter’s birth, neither my husband or I cooked.  Family and friends brought round a main meal, everyday of that week.  Now I can honestly say we’ve probably tried every single type of Shepherds pie ever made!  But do you know what?  To a nursing mum (me) and a severely sleep deprived couple, who had absolutely no idea of what parenting was all about, each evening meal was truly wonderful.  I was constantly hungry and my gorgeous hubby has never, ever been a fan of cooking and our needs were met.

Beautiful Pink Cupcakes, made by my wonderful Mummy, for our Daughter's Birthday. Love you Mummy xxxx
Beautiful Pink Cupcakes, made by my wonderful Mummy, for our Daughter’s Birthday. Love you Mummy xxxx

I have never forgotten the love and practical kindness shown to us, during the earliest days of parenthood (where bathing the baby would take over an hour – I’m not joking!!!).

My aim is to now show that same practical love to others and in doing so encourage others to also share.

Handing my shopping delivery man a cupcake. Thank you for carrying all my heavy shopping through to the kitchen.
Handing my shopping delivery man a cupcake. Thank you for carrying all my heavy shopping through to the kitchen.

It’s amazing how many people you can make smile, just because you take a moment to notice them and share with them!

Try it.  I’d love to know how you get on?

Sammie xx

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Almond and Cranberry Cookies

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Hello, thank you for stopping by to take a peek at my blog and the recipe for these scrumptious Almond and Cranberry Cookies.

Almond and Cranberry Cookies - delish xxx
Almond and Cranberry Cookies – delish xxx

Just because Cranberries are naturally in season over the holiday period, doesn’t mean you can’t use the dried version any time of the year!

Pop the kettle on - I need to be dunked!!!
Pop the kettle on – I need to be dunked!!!

Dried cranberries have a sweet/tart flavour and work wonderfully well in these cookies as they are not too sweet.  Most supermarkets stock Craisins (by Ocean Spray) otherwise I’ve found reliable stockists of dried Cranberries on Amazon/eBay.

Recipe :  Makes 20 – 30 cookies

5 oz  Caster Sugar

8 oz  Unsalted Butter (at room temp)

1/4 tsp Salt (I use Kosher – no additives)

1 tsp Vanilla Extract

1/2 tsp. Almond Extract

1  Large Egg Yolk (free range if possible)

2 oz  Ground Almonds

8 oz. Plain White Flour

4 oz  Dried Cranberries

2 oz  Flaked Almonds

Method :

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

Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper (if the trays aren’t non stick).

Cream together the butter, sugar and salt, using either an electric whisk (much easier!!) or wooden spoon, until pale and smooth to touch (rub a little of the mixture between your thumb and forefinger, it should not feel grainy).

Whisk/beat in the Egg Yolk, Vanilla and Almond extracts.

I now always switch to a spoon for mixing the dry ingredients, this way I can ‘feel’ when everything is combined and avoid overworking the flour (this can lead to tough cookies).

Add the Plain White Flour, Ground Almonds, Dried Cranberries and Flaked Almonds.  Mix until all the ingredients are just combined.

This dough looks yummy enough to eat!!
This dough looks yummy enough to eat!!

Using a teaspoon form small balls (the size of large marbles) of the mixture, approx 12-14 balls – this will use approx half of the mixture.

Place the cookie dough balls, spaced evenly, onto the baking sheets.  Lightly press the balls to form 1/4 inch thick disc.

Put both baking trays into the preheated oven and cook for 18-25 mins.  They are cooked when they have turned a light, golden colour.  Do not expect the cookies to be hard, they will firm up on cooling.

Leave to cool fully on the baking tray.

These taste even better the next day.  I had to hide them to find that out!!!!
These taste even better the next day. I had to hide them to find that out!!!!

With the remaining cookie dough, wipe your worktop with a clean cloth and place at least 14 inches of cling film onto the worktop.  Where the worktop is damp it will anchor the cling film in place!!

Place the cookie dough onto the cling film, form into a roll (approx 1 1/2 inch diameter).  Wrap with the cling film and place in the fridge, it will keep fresh for up to one week.  Or you can place in the freezer for up to one month.

Defrost the dough overnight in the fridge.  To bake, preheat the oven and remove the dough log 20 minutes before slicing – this allows the dough to warm slightly and will help stop the cookies cracking when being cut.

Slice 1/4 inch (1cm) discs from the dough log, place on baking sheets as before and bake for 18-25 minutes.  The time will vary depending on the diameter and thickness of your cookies.

Again they are cooked when lightly golden.  Leave to cool on the baking sheet.

These cookies make lovely gifts.  Pack a few up in a cellophane bag, tied with a pretty ribbon, reuse a Christmas chocolate tin and fill with Cookies, or pop some into a Kilner jar!

A super present, people can see what they're being treated to!!!!
A super present, people can see what they’re being treated to!!!!

Not only are these so easy to make, you can keep the dough stored in the fridge to whip out when unexpected guests arrive and have freshly baked cookies, ready to share with a smile and a cuppa!

Food really does taste better when it’s shared!!

 

 

 

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Meet Our Penguins!!!!

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HAPPY CHRISTMAS EVE

Hello, big apologies for not posting recently.  Birthdays (mine included!!!), Christmas preparation, children breaking up from school, flu bugs etc have simply left me with zero time to write.  So I thought I’d let you Meet Our Penguins!

Hello, I'm Super Daring Penguin!!
Hello, I’m Super Daring Penguin!!

But I’m back and have been up since 4.30 this morning – so I thought I’d finally get round to icing our Christmas cake.  I had already iced and decorated and delivered my parents – in – law’s cake, but not had the time, or energy to do ours!

A simple shooting star, outlined with sparkly, silver, dragée balls.
A simple shooting star, outlined with sparkly, silver, dragée balls.

So their cake was my second attempt at fondant icing.  The bottom of the cake wasn’t brilliant so a silver ribbon secured with a pearl pin covered all my mistakes and my Ma and Pa – in – law were delighted!!  It must be said, I have yet to meet anybody who loves Christmas cake as much as they do, so it’ll be interesting to see if it has made it all the way to Spain!!!!!

Today I woke up early and popped downstairs, in the beautiful, peaceful, quiet of a sleeping house and set about decorating our cake and more importantly, giving our Penguins and Snowman a playground!

Ice skating Penguins, watched over by the Snowman!!
Ice skating Penguins, watched over by the Snowman!!

I will take you through, step by step, the fun I had decorating this years Christmas cake.

For the cake recipe itself, please see

Recipes: Christmas Cake.

For the smaller cake, I used half the cake mixture. Both cakes were covered in marzipan and the fondant in exactly the same way – although the smaller cake obviously used less!! The smaller cake, being only my second attempt at fondant icing, wasn’t finished very neatly at the bottom, where the cake meets the board.  This was solved by the addition of a pretty, silver ribbon, strategically placed around the rim of the cake and secured with a pearl topped pin!!!!

PREPARING THE CAKE : 

Place your Cake onto the cake board (not the cake stand as I did initially and then got myself covered in jam as I realised my mistake and transferred it to the board!!!!).

Heat approx 3 large tablespoons of apricot jam in a saucepan, on a low heat, until the jam is slightly runny.  At this stage you can then sieve the jam to remove any lumps.  I didn’t bother as the jam I’d bought was fairly smooth – and it was 5am and I really couldn’t be bothered!!! But feel free to sieve if you want to – remember, it’s just there as a ‘glue’ for the Marzipan to stick to, so no one will see it!!!!

Warm over a low heat until the jam just starts to loosen and become more liquid.
Warm over a low heat until the jam just starts to loosen and become more liquid.

Next, using a pastry brush, completely slather the top and sides of the cake with the jam.  Don’t worry if some drips on the board as this can be wiped off later.  It really is important to cover the cake thoroughly as the jam will act as the ‘glue’ to which the marzipan sticks.

If you look carefully you can spot that my cake is not on a cake board - very sticky mistake!!!!!
If you look carefully you can spot that my cake is not on a cake board – very sticky mistake!!!!!

 

COVERING WITH MARZIPAN :

Unfortunately Marzipan isn’t as flexible as fondant icing.  It has a tendency to tear when rolled into a large disc and draped over the cake, which is the method I use for fondant.  As the marzipan will be covered by the fondant icing, I use a different method!

Firstly make sure that you have the cake tin  in which you baked you cake to hand.  This will be used as a template for the top of the cake and a rough guide for the sides.

On a clean board or worktop place a light dusting of icing sugar, also dust your rolling pin.  Take the Marzipan out of the packet (I used a 500g packet each for both cakes. My in- laws love marzipan so I just rolled there’s thicker!  Lightly dust your hands with icing sugar a gently knead the marzipan so that it becomes softer and more pliable.  As a guide at this point I divide the marzipan into 2 equal balls.

Roll out the first ball, taking care to make sue the marzipan does not become stuck to the worktop.  When it looks roughly the size of the top of the cake place the cake tin on top of the marzipan.  If it’s not quite big enough roll a little more until you have just over the size of the cake tin.  Then using the cake tin as a template, place on top and cut around with a knife.

Using the rolling pin to drape the marzipan over, place the marzipan disc on top of the sticky cake.

Don’t Worry – if the disc isn’t centralised the jam will make it easy to slide the marzipan into the correct position!!!

Next shape the I the half of the marzipan into a square and roll until youhave a long strip of marzipan, using the side of the cake tin as a guide.  It’s very hard to get an even length, but don’t worry you then just trim the sides before placing the strip of marzipan around the side of the cake.

Use your hands to press and mould the marzipan to the cake.
Use your hands to press and mould the marzipan to the cake.

If there are any small gaps, use the off cut pieces of marzipan to fill them.

 

Patching holes with scraps of marzipan!
Patching holes with scraps of marzipan!

COVERING THE CAKE WITH FONDANT ICING :

Now that the cake is covered in marzipan, the hard bit is over!!! Covering with fondant is going to be a doddle!!!

Firstly, completely clear and wipe down your worktop or board and rolling pin.  When you’re working with white fondant, the tiniest speck of anything will show up – that said DON’T STRESS!!  Decorations can always be used to hide the odd speck!!

To cover the large cake I used 750g of White Fondant icing.

One 500g block and approx half of another block, left over from the smaller cake & wrapped in cling film to prevent drying out.
One 500g block and approx half of another block, left over from the smaller cake & wrapped in cling film to prevent drying out.

Knead the fondant with hands lightly dusted in icing sugar. When nice and pliable form into a ball.

Fondant is very sticky, so keep your hands, worktop & rolling pin well dusted with icing sugar.
Fondant is very sticky, so keep your hands, worktop & rolling pin well dusted with icing sugar.

Pat the ball into an even disc shape. Using your rolling pin, roll outwards from the centre of the disc, turning the disc by a quarter before rolling again. Ensure there is plenty of icing sugar on the worktop so that the fondant moves freely.

Roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin.
Roll out to the thickness of a £1 coin.

Using the cake tin, again, as a guide, roll out the fondant so that it is wide enough to cover the top and sides of the cake, allowing a good extra couple of centimetres all round to allow for the added marzipan layer.

Using the tin you can roughly guess the final size of the fondant.
Using the tin you can roughly guess the final size of the fondant.

If you prefer to be more exact with your measurements, add the width ( diameter = D) of the tin plus 2 x the height (H) of the tin plus 2cm.

D + (2 x H) + 2cm = Total width of rolled fondant.

Ensure all measurements use the same unit  ie – cm.

Use your rolling pin to drape the fondant over and carefully centralise over the top of the cake. Moving swiftly drape the fondant over the cake.

Note: if the fondant tears badly, remove and start again – the thickness should be that of a £1 coin. Too thick and the fondant will be too heavy and tear, too thin and the fondant will not be strong enough to take the weight of draping.
I hadn't quite centralised the fondant, but I got away with lightly lifting it a moving to the left!!!
I hadn’t quite centralised the fondant, but I got away with lightly lifting it and moving to the left!!!

Working swiftly, use your hands to smooth the fondant over the top and sides of the cake.  I found I almost had to ‘tuck in’ the sides of the cake. There will be excess around the sides, just keep smoothing and gradually a beautiful smooth, snow coloured,  cake will begin to appear!

Using a small, sharp knife, cut away the excess fondant from the base leaving a good 1-2 cm of excess  attached.  Pat and tuck this fondant until the side of the cake is completely covered and using the fondant press down to form a seal with the cake board.  This will help to keep your cake fresher for longer. However if, like me with the smaller cake, you have an uneven finish around the base, remember you can always cover it with ribbon!!!!

A beautifully fondant covered cake. Clean the board with a piece of damp kitchen towel.
A beautifully fondant covered cake. Clean the board with a piece of damp kitchen towel.
DECORATING YOUR ICED CAKE:

Now the real fun begins!!!

For the smaller cake I cut out a shooting star, using a cutter dusted with icing sugar. I dipped my finger in warm water and dampened the back of the shooting star, this allowed me to ‘stick’ it to the top of the cake. Then using edible glue I outlined the star with silver dragée balls. An elegant and travel friendly decoration (thanks Delia for the inspiration!).

A shooting star, simple, but effective.
A shooting star, simple, but effective.

PENGUINS AND SNOWFLAKES :

Seeing as I decided to go ‘off piste’ with my icing this year – usually I use Royal Icing but on a whim, I decided to live dangerously and opt for Fondant.  Chuckle you may, but given that one of the Christmas cakes was a gift and I’d actually only ever used Fondant icing once before, I would say that counts as dangerous. But then I like to live life on the edge!!!!!

Seriously, or not, though, is bought the 6 super cute Penguins, The Snowman and for some strange, whimsical reason, thought it’d be fun to have the Penguins skating on an iced lake with The Snowman watching over.  That was as organised as I got with the decoration!!!!

So at 6am Christmas Eve my vague idea started to take shape.  Firstly I took a blob (approx 70g) of pale blue fondant, kneaded it until soft and formed it into a rough ball shape.  Then I rolled it out, a little haphazardly! The shape you see on the cake is literally the shape I ended up with!!!

The irregular pattern seems more natural than a perfect oval - and the penguins seem to like it!!!!!
The irregular pattern seems more natural than a perfect oval – and the penguins seem to like it!!!!!

Then using 3 different sizes of snowflake, plunge cutters (designed for sugar craft) I cut out different sizes of snowflakes. I attached them and the blue, ice lake using edible glue.

NOTE : Use icing sugar to dust your cutters to prevent the fondant from sticking – it only took me half a dozen goes before I realised this!!!!

I placed the snowflakes in an irregular pattern around the side of the cake,  allowing some of the smaller snowflakes to edge the top, some falling over the edge.  As the lake was an irregular shape, visually I think this worked better than a regular pattern.

I mixed up a thick paste of icing powder, a teaspoon of meringue powder and a little water, to make royal icing.  This would ensure the Penguins and Snowman stuck firmly to the cake and board.

Using a small knife I pasted a small amount of the Royal icing to the base of the Snowman and Penguins and placed them on the cake.  Honestly this was the best bit!  As I was adding the Penguins they all seemed to have their own little personalities.  Yes I know we are talking about inedible cake decorations – just look at their little faces and you will see what I mean!

These two are a bit shy, so they huddle together, on the edge of the lake, watching the others!
These two are a bit shy, so they huddle together, on the edge of the lake, watching the others!

Overall the cake, in my opinion, just has a balance to it. Whilst it isn’t symmetrical it is balanced, but most of all FUN! I’m so glad you got to Meet Our Penguins!

Most of all, I would like to wish everyone a Happy, Peaceful Christmas and Fun, Exciting 2015.   Sammie xxxxx
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