Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Since this blog has been dormant for a while now, I've decided to move over to Wordpress, which is far sleeker and generally better all round.  So if you wish to you can find me here at Handmade By Lauren.

Monday, 22 November 2010

TSR Bakers November Bake - Homemade Oreos

I've quite a bit of catching up to do. I can't believe how quickly the year has passed and now it's not far off Christmas once again. I really need to get cake, pudding and mincemeat making over the weekend. One of the best parts of the whole event is definitely the baking. In my opinion the most enjoyable parts of christmas are ordered thusly, starting with most enjoyable: Taking delivery of the real tree and decorating it and the house; the baking; cooking the meal; leftovers and finally presents.
Anyway, in the spirit of catching up, here is the much delayed November bake from the TSR bakers that I should have posted ages ago, so apologies for that. This month's bake was Homemade Oreos, selected by Internet Gems. I must say I've neve been a big fan of actual Oreos, they're alright, but I'd always choose a chocolate digestive or a bourbon over one. Homemade oreos on the other hand are completely delicious and so easy to make too. The biscuit part is crumbly, melting and the bitterness of the cocoa is perfectly complimented by the sweet vanilla buttercream filling. I'll never buy a pack a of oreos ever, not when I can have these instead. So yes, go try them.

Homemade Oreos
Makes around 25 sandwiched cookies

For the biscuit dough:
160g plain flour
8tbsp cocoa powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
250g sugar
140g room-temperature butter
1 large egg
Mix the dry ingredients together in a large bowl, then, using an electric mixer, add the butter and the egg. Mix until the ingredients come together to form a dough.

Take a pinch of the dough (about a small teaspoon sized amount) and roll into a ball. Place on a lined baking tray and slightly flatten the ball. Space the balls at least two inches to allow for spreading and bake for nine minutes at 190 degrees.
Remove from oven and leave to cool on tray for a few minutes before transferring to a wire tray to cool completely.
For the filling:
115g soft butter
260g icing sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
a little milk if required, to thin the icing.
Cream the butter then add the icing sugar, vanilla and milk if using. Spread on the flat side of one cookie (I used a piping bag) then top with another cookie, flat side down.
They keep very well too, the cookie softening only slightly, which is no bad thing with this type of cookie.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

TSR Bakers October Bake - Monkey Bread

Yes, yes, I know it's long past the beginning of October and I did bake this well over a week ago, but I just haven't gotten round to writing it up. Going to work whilst still suffering the dregs of flu is no fun and it's been as much as I can bear to do to just flop through the door and curl up into a foetesian ball on the sofa and lament the fact that I didn't win the Euromillions last week.

So October's TSR bake is the inscrutably named Monkey Bread, a neither fish nor fowl affair, as I wouldn't really count it as bread and it lacks anything vaguely monkey related such as bananas, and was sort of chosen by Procrastibaking and the recipe is here.

Whilst a little involved, though by no means difficult, it is certainly worth it. Sweet, buttery, warm and doughy, it reminds me a little of me.

On my travels around the infonets, I've discovered that Lakeland stock a tin designed just for monkey bread, recipe included! Perhaps if I'd won the Euromillions I could afford such frivolities...

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Chocolate Banana Muffins for an autumn day

Finally on the tail end of the flu. Now I just have a horrendous cough that forces me to get up at night, the result being I've had a grand total of about 12 hours sleep in the past 3 days. Fell asleep on the sofa at 8am this morning after getting up at 6am after 2 hours sleep. Ergh.

I can tell I'm on the mend though, because when I did get up I felt like eating something other than the obligatory tea and toast that I've been surviving on for over a week, and better yet I felt able to bake something easy. Mr. Tart's very generous mum bought us some presents earlier in the week to cheer us up and I got 3 baking books, one of which is Nigella Lawson's new book, Kitchen, which is full of lots of lovely recipes I can't wait to try and this recipe for Chocolate Banana muffins is taken from it. Warm, soft, sweet and chocolatey with an air of being nourishing, combined with a milky cup of coffee, these certainly hit the spot for my flu addled senses. They're also super quick and easy to whip up. I think it took me longer to separate the paper cases than it did to weigh out and mix the ingredients.

Chocolate Banana Muffins
Makes 12
3 over-ripe bananas
2 eggs
125ml vegetable oil
100g soft light brown sugar
225g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
3 tablespoons of best quality cocoa powder (under no circumstances using drinking chocolate,- doing so will summon the devil)

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C and line two 6-hole muffin trays with paper cases.
Mash the bananas with a fork into a rough, slightly chunky paste, and whilst continually stirring add the eggs, sugar and oil and combine. Then add the flour, bicarb and cocoa powder and stir until just mixed. Don't over work otherwise you'll end up with tough, chewy muffins. Spoon into the paper cases and bake for 15-20 minutes. Eat straight from the oven warm. They'll also keep for a couple of days in an airtight container, and can be easily revived by popping them in a warm oven for a few minutes.
As it was a beautiful sunny autumn morning today, I went and sat outside in the garden to enjoy these muffins. This time of year is the absolute best for me. It's still just warm enough to sit outside with a cardigan on, but it's suitably cool to feel cosy. I'm lucky enough to have a cobnut (relative of the hazelnut) tree at the end of my garden which is dropping its fruits everywhere. Every few seconds there was a clack or tock as the nuts dropping on the table or the paving. I've started to gather up the nuts but there just seems to be thousands of them! Plus moving a bit too fast at the moment makes me dizzy, so this may be a job for when I'm fully recovered.

At any rate, the garden was beautiful in the soft autumn sunshine so I tried to capture some of it. I'm sure the garden also smells lovely, but I have no sense of smell at the moment. Enjoy!

One of the carrots still growing, the aptly named Autumn King variety. This one has tomorrow's sunday lunch written all over it.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Fig Bars and flu

I haven't done any baking for a while, firstly I was busy stripping the foul pink floral wallpaper off of our bedroom walls so I could decorate it and then this week The Tarts household was struck with plague. Well, flu. So cooking has been limited to toast and canned tomato soup, which is the only food I've been able to taste, and indeed been able to cook thanks to the time limit on my standing upright ability.

I made these fig bars before all of the above nonsense struck after managing to get a glut of beautiful black figs. I ate alot of them just as they were- fresh, sweet and jammy, wrapped in parma ham or with a little piece of sharp feta or creamy, tangy gorgonzola. As I had so many a few became a little too soft for my liking so went about looking for a recipe to use them up, with my love of fig rolls in mind. Fig rolls with their sweet, jammy filling wrapped in a crumbly golden stodge that is neither pastry nor biscuit are really rather heavenly, and I don't know if it's jst me but there's something very war time retro about them.

Anyway, I found this recipe for Fig Bars which seemed to be a happy mix of traybake and fig rolls. The flour based mix forms both the base and the crumble topping (so one less bowl, which is always good) and the figs are jammy, sweet, slightly spicy and wonderfully warming. Truly lovely.

Monday, 6 September 2010

Sunday Baking- Stem Ginger Cookies

I don't often bake cookies and I've no idea why, but I'm on course to change this, starting with these stem ginger cookies. I hated stem ginger as a kid and I blame my mum's favourite- ginger jam, which assaulted my senses when I tried it as a child. Things have changed and now I don't quite feel complete unless I have a jar of syrup drenched amber globes of ginger stashed somewhere in my kitchen, and liking stem ginger feels to me like a very grown up thing to do. I like ginger snaps but sometimes find their tooth snapping qualities a little undesirable, so these soft, chewy and slightly crisp on the edges, cookies are a perfect balance. Highly recommended.

Amber gold
Stem Ginger Cookies
Makes 30 small or 20 medium cookies

350g self raising flour
pinch of salt
200g golden caster sugar
1 tbsp ground ginger
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
115g unsalted butter
90g/generous 1/4 cup of golden syrup
1 large egg, beaten
150g stem ginger in syrup, roughly chopped

-Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C and line 3 baking sheets baking paper.
-Roughly dice the butter and place in a small saucepan with the golden syrup (add a bit of the preserving syrup from the ginger if you want) and heat gently until the butter has melted. Remove from the heat and allow to cool until just warm.
-Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, add the salt, caster sugar, ground ginger and bicarb. Stir to combine.
-Pour the melted butter and syrup mix over the dry ingredients, then add the egg and two thirds of the stem ginger. Mix with a spoon to combine and then use your hands to bring the dough together completely (it will look like there's not enough liquid, but be patient and when yo mix with yor hands it will come together, honest).
-Roll 20-30 balls (for rough measurement I'd say a well loaded teaspoon will produce a small cookie and a scant dessert spoon will yield a medium one. For super mega big cookies, a good tablespoon) of the dough and place on the baking sheets, with plently of room for them to expand, I'd say no more than 2 rows per sheet. Flatten slightly with your hands and then sprinkle each cookie with a little of the remaining stem ginger.
-Bake for 12-15 minutes, dependent on your chosen size of cookie, until light golden in colour. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the sheets until firm enough to transfer to a cooling rack.

-Store in an airtight container, but only after scarfing down enough warm, spicy cookies to make you feel sick.

And for the love of all that is holy, if you finish up a jar of preserved stem ginger, DO NOT throw away the syrup. It is divine drizzled over ice cream or pancakes or use it to sweeten herbal tea, or hot water with some lemon juice and some of the syrup is wonderfully warming. Can also be used in place of normal sugar syrup in cocktails. Anything! Just don't waste the nectar of the gods!

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

TSR Bakers September Bake - Scones

Scones are one of those sweet treats that have something of the nursery about them. For me they're not really associated with high tea and oddly cut sandwiches but sunny days in the garden, eaten with soft salty butter and runny strawberry jam. Despite this, I don't tend to make sweet scones, prefering savoury cheese ones, mainly because Mr Tarts doesnt particularly like sweet treats, but cheese scones always go down well.

So this month's bake was a good choice, courtesy of Cakecuccino. The recipe makes 8 so I divided the mix and made 4 sweet scones and 4 cheese. Recipe can be found here for 8 sweet scones.

I often find scones can be quite dense, but these were soft, crumbly and delicious. I suspect the addition of double cream instead of milk is responsible. Will definitely be making these again!

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