Wednesday, 22 August 2012


Our voyage on the savoury sea hit a Disney princess shaped iceberg this week.  Tangled ever after was on tv and this will always be better than baking as far as Milly is concerned, so we waited for that to be over.  Then there was some sort of Disney princess special on with women in very large dresses and wigs and even the promise of plaiting bread couldn't tempt her in to the kitchen, so today I ran solo.  I'm adding the recipe anyway because it is something a toddler can do, just not one with a princess obsession.

I decided to make challah bread as a nod to my years being educated in a Jewish school.  It was always one of my favourites and something I used to make rather a lot.   There are lots of variations out there that use different quantities of sugar or honey but this is one I like.  Feel free to remove the fruit if you're not a fan.

Time to get plaiting

You will need:

750g strong white flour
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp dry yeast
200ml boiling water
100ml cold water
4 tbsp sugar
1/2 tbsp salt
75g mixed dried fruit (I used raisins, currents and cranberries)
3 eggs

for the topping
1 egg
sesame or poppy seeds

Dissolve the yeast, sugar and salt in the water and add the oil.  Leave for 5 - 10 minutes until the yeast starts to foam slightly.

Add in the eggs one at a time and mix well.  I use a hand mixer for this but you can do it by hand if you want.

Mix in around 3/4 of the flour and combine well.  It should be sticky and stringy at this point.  I gave up with the mixer around half way through the flour because it starts to travel up and makes a mess, so it was hands in at that point.

Turn out on to a floured surface.  Add in the rest of the flour and knead for a good 10 minutes.  Place in an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for an hour.  Since we own a new fangled eco style house which contains the worlds largest heat recovery system in the airing cupboard I stick my bread in to the top of our double oven with the bottom turned on to its lowest setting.

After an hour turn out again and punch it about a bit.  If you're doing this with your children then you can complete the next stage if you want but you will get a better bread if you leave it to prove for another 30 - 40 minutes or so if you can.

Turn the bread out again and flatten slightly.  Pour the fruit in to the middle and fold back on itself.   Do not over knead at this point.  If you want to do half without the fruit then split first and use less fruit.

Split the dough in two and plait in any way you wish.  I went for a simple three strand which is suitable for a toddler to do and slightly more complex 6 strand option which isn't unless they're in mensa.  There are lots of tutorials on the net for doing this if you have done it before.  Youtube is worth its weight in gold when it comes to bread plaiting.

Beat the remaining egg and brush over the top of the bread.  Top with sesame or poppy seeds as desired and cook for around 30 minutes at 160 degrees or until golden brown and hollow sounding if you tap the bottom.

3 and 6 strand plaited challah

Its rather nice served warm  - ideal for afternoon tea

Check out my irregular plaiting skills

One day I'll teach Milly to bake bread.  Maybe.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Slave to the Gogglebox

Last week I decided that we were going to do more savoury recipes in the coming weeks.   Hubby bakes bread and it always looks like such fun that I thought perhaps we could work up to that, starting out with a sweet bread and breaking in to savoury types later on.  So today should have been spent making cinnamon rolls, an item that not only have I never made but I've never actually tasted.  Unfortunately when I started looking around for recipes they all said things like mix together and leave for 2 years to rise.

Patience is only a virtue for those who don't work in the afternoons so I decided to use the bread maker, found a recipe to base our morning on, got the ingredients ready....and then watched the Great British Bake Off on tv and all plans went out of the window.  Savoury can wait - I wanted cake!

Actually its upside down

(said Milly to my mum)

This makes 6 small cakes.  If you want to make a large cake, double up on everything and add some extra fruit. We used a very shallow brownies tin which meant we didn't want lots of berries in there.

A good handful of berries of your choice (we used a mixture of strawberries and blueberries)
25g unsalted butter
25g light brown sugar

1 lemon
2 eggs
100g self raising flour
100g caster sugar
100g whatever fat floats your buttery boat

Chop the strawberries to blueberry sizes bits.  Milly is old enough to do this herself, which was shouted at me when I offered to help out.

Whilst your toddler is asserting their authority, melt the butter and sugar in a pan.  Remove from the heat and toss in the berries.  Shove on the side.

(Basic viccy sponge coming up).  Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add in the eggs one at a time.  Add the zest of about half of the lemon (and juice if you want - I didn't).  Add in the sifted flour.  Its an often repeated recipe on here.   Apparently it also makes the best mix to lick at the end.

Add a spoon of the berry mix to the base of each of your cases or tins.  Top with the cake mix and bake for about 20 minutes at 160 degrees.  Do remember to put a tray underneath because the fruit juices and caramel mix will probably go everywhere.  Of course I did this and wont be spending my evening cleaning the oven.  

Turn out on to a tray or plate and shove the tin in to water before everything gets sticky.   Ice the top if you want to but, in all honesty, this is a pretty ugly cake.  Tastes good though so I forgive it.  It would be gorgeous served warm with a good blob of clotted cream.

Beauty is only cake deep

and since I'd found that recipe anyway, I made the rolls

Recipe here

but I halved everything, ignored the nuts and sultanas and made a topping of icing sugar, vanilla and milk.  I also rolled from the short edge, chopped in to 8 exactly equal sections (honestly) and cooked them in a muffin tin.   If you have an under 2  give them the cinnamon sugar to sprinkle and the finished rolls to ice.

Mill ices cakes and gets the tea ready

I think that's Christmas morning breakfast sorted for this year.  They are very very yummy.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

I Dont Like Cream

I sometimes wonder if Milly was switched at birth.  I can cover just about anything in cream and be a happy lady.  Soup is a bit boring, add cream.  Pasta needs a little something, add cream.  Cream cake is not quite creamy enough, add cream.  Its the greatest thing in the world.

Milly hates it.  Not just single cream either but all cream variations and anything even slightly cream-like in texture.  That's just not normal is it?

I decided we were going to play with choux pastry today but I needed something that didn't involve cream or creme anglaise.  Once again, we're experimenting in the kitchen and enjoying it.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Choux Drops

(nothing like profiteroles at all.  Honest)

75ml cold water
1 egg
30g strong white flour
1 tsp caster sugar
25g + 1 tbsp butter
4 tbsp peanut butter
100g icing sugar
50g milk chocolate

To make the pastry, heat the water together with the 25g of butter in a pan until it is just melted.  Don't let the water boil.  As soon as the butter has melted remove the pan from the heat.  At this stage you need to tip in all of the flour and sugar in to the water so its a good idea to have it all ready in a bowl or jug.  Dump it in and mix like crazy until the pastry comes away from the side of the pan.

It should look something like this

and not like this

This is what happens when you aren't paying attention to the amount of water

Beat your egg and add a little at a time, mixing well each time.  The mix should slide of a spoon but definitely should not be liquid.  I used a little over half an egg but I wanted something a little wetter than normal to give a flat based drop rather than a profiterole ball. 

Grease and dampen a sheet of greaseproof paper.  Normally I just spoon the mix on to the trays but I thought piping would be more fun so we piped little messy blobs. You can make any shape and any size you want. 

Cook for about 10 - 12 minutes at 190 degrees.

Melt the chocolate (again, I went for the microwave method) and leave to the side to cool

Whilst everything is cooling prepare the peanut butter filling.  

I was hoping to sneak in some sort of cream to this, but I didn't have any so I went with a frosting variation.  I have to admit, I'm not a big fan of the eye twitching sweetness of frosting but this is just about on the edge of my tolerance for icing sugar.  The shape and size of the drops means you aren't going to put a great amount in each one.  If you love frosting, make balls and load them up.

Mix together the peanut butter and butter until they are well combined.

Sift in the icing sugar.  You should have a granulated bowl of yack at this stage so add a little milk and keep adding until it gets to a slightly wet piping consistency.  If its too sweet to taste now, add more peanut butter.

By now the pastry drops should be cool so pipe in the peanut butter frosted and dip in the melted chocolate.  Once complete bang in the fridge to let everything set.

Peanut butter choux drops

I also made a larger batch but I forgot to grease the paper.  Its been one of those days filled with a million things to do at the same time.  As a result, they stuck to the paper but I could peel them off and make little cups.  Waste not want not and all that, so I filled them with the frosting and chocolate.

Not quite so cute and bite sized but delicious all the same!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Its the future

The whole family was home for lunch today.  His lordship had a call to make which meant keeping the small one busy for the duration and the whole thing was a bit unexpected so I hadn't prepared a craft for us to do. 

Like many kitchen dabblers, I have a few go-to recipes that I know work and are reasonably easy to throw together.  One of mine is banana bread and I happened to have a load of over ripe bananas that needed using up.  I've been using the same recipe for years despite being tempted by talk of chocolate banana bread so today was the day I decided to mix it up a bit.  Whats the worst that can happen after all.

Of course, if it was terrible I would take all of the blame and not suggest that a 3 year old in the kitchen isn't always going to produce great food.  *ahem*

Chocolate Banana Bread - Cake Style

125g soft butter (or fat of your choice)
180g soft brown sugar
2 eggs
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
125 ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
50g chocolate (we used milk but dark would have been much nicer)
3 bananas
pinch of salt

Melt the chocolate (I did the microwave for 45 seconds method) and set aside to cool slightly.

Beat together the sugar and fat until well combined and then add the eggs, one at a time.

Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in one bowl and the milk, mashed banana and vanilla in another.  Sift in half of the flour and mix well.  Once combined add in the milk and mix again.  Add the remaining flour and mix.  This will result in a large amount of gloop so prepare for volcanic levels of overspill if you don't have a large mixing bowl.

Milly mixes chocolate banana cake

Put approximately half of the mix in to another bowl and mix in the cocoa powder.  Resist the temptation to pour the melted chocolate straight in to your mouth and add it to the mix instead.

Spoon blobs of the chocolate and non-chocolate mix in to a prepared baking tin and marble by running a kebab stick / knife / dinosaur tail through the lot.

Lick the spoons, bowls, whisk - basically everything.  This mix is lush.

Cook for an hour in my oven at 160.

Normally we eat banana loaf warm.  This cake is much much better served cold.  

Chocolate banana cake
Cutting it with a butter knife will result in a messy slice of cake

Milly decided she wanted to make a round cake, so you will need to adjust this recipe if you're making a standard loaf.  I normally bake my loaf for an hour and then foil the top and continue to cook for about 20 minutes.  I also add about 25g more flour and if I made this again I'd probably bung it in.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Getting Five a Day

"Would you like to make cakes with vegetables Milly?  Does that sound like fun?".

In my head, that conversation went a lot better.  I imagined a startled response, curiosity piqued by the potential of adding something savoury to a normally sweet product.  Then I remembered that Milly is three and knows that I talk mostly nonsense.  FACT.   Still, I want to encourage her to explore food a little more so we're making vegetable based and this *will* be fun.

Mother Knows Best Vegetable Cakes

Carrot & Orange

1 large egg
90g golden caster sugar
50ml vegetable oil
100g self raising flour
1 tsp mixed spice
1 carrot
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Zest and juice of half an orange

Mix together the egg, sugar, oil and orange juice.  I gave Milly the first try at the hand blender.  Unfortunately using a blender is difficult with both hands over your ears so I did that part for her instead.

Fold in the flour, spice, grated carrot, vanilla and orange zest.  Laugh to yourself about what it would be like if you used old spice instead of mixed spice.  Wonder if this is the onset of madness.

hat optional

Divide in to 6 large muffins or mini loaf cases and bake in my oven at 160 degrees for 20 minutes.

Whilst you're waiting for these to cool, it gives you time to bake

Chocolate & Courgette

1 large egg
2 tbsp vegetable oil
75g golden caster sugar
120g self raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tbsp unsweetened cocoa
1 courgette
handful of chocolate chips (optional)

Mix together the egg, sugar and oil in a bowl.   

Its a day of firsts and courgette is a lot soften than carrots so Milly got to grate her first vegetable.  Add to the mix and smile at how proud your child is with themselves.

Mix in the flour, cocoa, baking powder and chocolate chips if you're using them.  Doing the usual dance is also optional.

Cook as with the carrot cakes.

Once these come out of the oven you can frost (or not) the carrot cake.  We went for orange cream cheese frosting (recipe).

Carrot Cake Squares with Orange Cream Cheese Frosting.

The chocolate courgette cakes can take quite a lot of sweetness.  If anything they need it, so we went with a mixture of vanilla frosting and strawberries.  If I had it in, I would have gone with a white chocolate ganache instead.

Mini Chocolate Courgette Cakes