Happy New Year, peeps! I hope you all had a lovely Christmas break and have come back refreshed. I have to say, I was quite delighted to get back to the routine… and then I got back to the routine and decided it wasn’t that great after all. Hey ho.
So what does 2015 have in store? Most excitingly a trip to New Zealand is in the pipeline this December. Yup, Christmas 2015 will be spent on the South Island with Husband’s brother and his family, which is something to look forward to, and a motivating factor in my quest to get fit and healthy.
So, time permitting, I am getting back into running and have already been several times during the last couple of weeks. Of course, it’s fitting it in around the family and work that’s the issue, especially given that it’s dark in the morning and the evening, which I don’t find very motivating. But I have also built more walking into my daily commute, which is good for my health, and has the added benefit of being cheaper, too. I have been listening to the (very gripping) Serial podcast as I walk, which helps pass the time.
We’ve been making lots of delicious smoothies and healthy breakfasts, including overnight oats, here at OH HQ, too (more to come on this soon!), and both Husband and I have been doing loads of cooking from various cookbooks – new and old, which has been lovely.
I am LOVING our new KitchenAid, and so Littlest and I spent the afternoon making a chocolate cake because, well, just because really! She loved cracking the eggs, sifting the flour (although she did get bored half way through) and stirring and mixing. A great way to pass a winter’s afternoon with a little one.
Come on, it’s time to fall off that sugar-free wagon in style. Just a small slice…
Moist Rich Chocolate Cake
This recipe is slightly adapted from The Guardian’s ‘Guide to Baking’, which was given away with the newspaper way back in 2007 and this chocolate cake is simply incredible. The icing is from Nigella’s Feast, and is the icing she uses on her Chocolate Guinness Cake. Nothing healthy here, I’m afraid, it’s pure indulgence!
You will need:
375ml boiling milk
100g dark chocolate, chopped (I just broke into chunks tbh)
275g caster sugar
225g plain flour
75g cocoa powder
1½ tsp baking powder
¾tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 large free-range egg, plus one yolk
75ml sunflower oil
25g golden syrup
2tsp vanilla extract
What to do:
- Heat the oven to 180C (160C Fan) and line the base of a 20cm diameter, 9cm deep round cake tin (or the closest you have to this) with baking parchment.
- Melt the chocolate into the boiling milk and allow to stand and cool for 15 minutes or so.
- Meanwhile, weigh and sift all of the dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl (I used the KitchenAid bowl).
- Whisk together the eggs, oil, golden syrup and vanilla and then beat into your milky-chocolate mix from step 2.
- Whisk this liquid into your dry ingredients for 30 seconds (this is where I used the KitchenAid) until smooth, and pour the batter into the tin.
- Bake for approx. 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted comes out clean.
- Allow to cool before topping with the below.
For the topping you will need:
150g Philadelphia cream cheese
75g icing sugar
60ml double cream
Cocoa powder for dusting
What to do:
- Lightly whip the cream cheese until smooth – I used the KitchenAid to do this (because I love it).
- Sieve over the icing sugar, and then beat both together.
- Add the cream and beat again until it makes a spreadable consistency. Spread over the top of your cake and sprinkle with cocoa powder from a fine-mesh sieve.
I recently had the pleasure of spending a day with professional food stylist Rosie Reynolds, who gave me some expert food styling advice for food blog photos. Rosie and I met through work, and she was so enthusiastic about my blog, she came to see me at One-Handed HQ for a Halloween-themed baking, decorating and photo session.
We baked delicious chocolate cupcakes, which we decorated using jelly snakes to make Snake Cupcakes, and with chocolate icing and cola laces to make Spider Cupcakes, which we then had great fun setting up in a spooky Halloween tableau (above), complete with skeletons dangling down, all lit by candlelight. In the words of Miranda: such fun!
Rosie has a great eye, and one of the best tips I learnt from her was to take the photo and then look at it really carefully on-screen before deciding what to add in or what to remove to get the best possible shot. Make the change, then take another photo, and compare the two. Usually the secret is taking something away to simplify things and let the food take centre stage.
Another great tip is to try to keep the food and the styling as natural as possible – if you’re serving a casserole, for instance, don’t be afraid to dig into the food and swirl it around with the serving spoon, so it looks accessible and yummy. For cakes and puddings, a few crumbs scattered around make it look even more delicious and homemade.
For best results, shoot in natural daylight (these photos were all taken on my iPhone) and think about the background you are presenting the food on – again, natural surfaces are great for such purposes. Wood, tile and slate are good; have you got an old wooden trunk, or some tiles left over from a building project? Even an old door with peeling paint can be great for overhead shots. Sometimes the most unexpected things can work really well. Take a good look through your cookbooks or BBC Good Food and take inspiration from what they use. Pinterest is useful for ideas, too.
We had a great time styling these shots (and eating jelly snakes). I picked up some really useful tips for future posts and I hope you like them, and enjoy the cakes. Of course, they’re very sweet, so a bit of a treat for little ones. I presented them whole to the children and then cut each cake in half as I thought a whole one would be too much for one child. (I was right.) They absolutely loved them – a real Halloween hit!
Happy Halloween, folks.
Spooky Halloween Cupcakes
40g cocoa powder
3–4 tbsp boiling water
125g butter, softened
150g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 large eggs
4 tbsp fat free natural yogurt
125g wholemeal flour or plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
For the icing
50g butter, softened
3 tbsp cocoa powder
3–4tbsp fat free natural yogurt
250g icing sugar, sifted
Splash of hot water if needed to make a nice smooth icing
Cola flavour laces
75g packet jelly worms
To make the cupcakes:
1. Preheat oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Line a muffin tray with 10 paper cases, set aside.
2. Sift the cocoa into a bowl. Stir in the water to make a smooth paste. Tip in the rest of the ingredients and beat with a wooden spoon until smooth.
3. Use two dessert spoons to evenly fill your cake cases – be careful not to overfill.
4. Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until your cakes are risen and a skewer inserted into the middle of a cake comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
To make the icing:
Cream the butter, cocoa and yogurt together until smooth. Gradually add the sifted icing sugar, beat after each addition until smooth. It might be a bit dry, but if you let the mix relax then keep beating it should come together, if not, add a splash of hot water to create a smooth icing.
Divide the icing between your cakes, spread over the surface with the back of a spoon.
Decorate yourself, or get bigger kids to do their own – depending on how good you are at coping with MESS!
Snake Cupcakes: We decided not to ice these, but of course you can if you want to. Simply cut your jelly snake in half, and make a little hole in the side of your cake, using your fingers. Make another little hole on the opposite side of the cupcake to enable your snake to ‘slither’ through the cake – stick the head in one hole and the tail in the other. It’s that easy.
Spider Cupcakes: Spread the top of the cake with icing and use a cocktail stick to prick the icing and make little bumps. Use little sugar balls for the eyes and cut-up bits of jelly snake for eyebrows. To make the dangly legs, cut cola laces in half and tie a little knot at the end for a foot. Use the cocktail stick to make a little hole for each leg.
Last week while visiting the in-laws in Somerset I was given 2kg of plums by one of their neighbours who had so many Victoria plums she didn’t know what to do with them all. We’re talking plum city!
So anyway, bringing a huge box of plums back to London did rather focus the mind, and so I decided to make jam for the first time (more on that later…) and also to whip up some lovely plum muffins. I figured the slightly sourish plums would combine beautifully with white chocolate and make for a seriously gorgeous muffin – which they do. I think this is the fourth muffin recipe to appear on the blog, and quite possibly the best! The whole family loved them.
So once you’ve made them, pour yourself a coffee and enjoy – with or without the kids.
As chance would have it, Rix, the Aga fuel people, are running a competition around recipes featuring plums this month so I decided to enter these beauts in the Rix Aga Inspired Recipes competition. You can find more seasonal recipes from them here: http://www.rix.co.uk/aga-cooker-recipes/
I know, talk about timing 😉
Plum & White Chocolate Muffins
You will need:
250g plain flour
170g caster sugar
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
¼ tsp salt
1½ tsp baking powder
150ml plain or Greek yogurt (I used Greek)
2 free-range eggs
1tsp vanilla essence
12 ripe plums, stoned and flesh cut into chunks
75g white chocolate, chopped into small chunks (or use white chocolate chips)
zest of a lemon
dash of whole milk (optional)
poppy seeds to sprinkle on top
What to do:
- Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C Fan/375°F and line your muffin tin with cases. (This will make about 12 muffins.)
- Melt the butter (in a bowl over a pan of simmering water) and set it to the side to cool while you mix together all your dry ingredients in a largeish mixing bowl with a wooden spoon – flour, sugar, bicarb, salt, baking powder.
- In a separate bowl mix your wet ingredients – the yogurt, eggs and vanilla essence – then add the cooled melted butter and stir.
- Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix together, but don’t overmix. Fold in the plums, white chocolate chunks and lemon zest. If it’s feeling a bit dry, add a dash of milk.
- Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases, filling each hole about two-thirds full, and sprinkle poppy seeds on top.
- Bake in the preheated oven for approx. 20 mins – test with a skewer – and cool on a wire rack.
These will keep for a couple of days in an airtight box. They also freeze well.
If you’re after a super-quick delicious muffin recipe, read on!
I just love rhubarb – it’s often forgotten in discussions about great fruit (although strictly speaking, it’s actually a vegetable, but let’s not worry about that), but it’s usually around this time every year, when my mum informs me that her rhubarb patch has gone wild and asks if I’d like some, that I remember just how much I like it. Rhubarb does require quite a lot of sugar to make it palatable, which is a downside, given my efforts to reduce the sugar intake here at OH HQ, but then the tang of rhubarb is an unbeatable flavour, and these muffins offer a delicious and easy way to bake with rhubarb.
This recipe was inspired by a recent visit to new artisan bakeshop Kitchen in Langport in Somerset, on our half-term travels, where we tasted rhubarb & raspberry muffins for the first time and they were declared ‘delicious’.
I hadn’t thought of using rhubarb in muffins before, but it’s great, particularly with raspberries. What’s brilliant is that you don’t need to cook the rhubarb beforehand – you just stir it into your mixture – which means these muffins literally take about 10 minutes to make – perfect for the time-pressed parent.
I am into coconut oil at the moment (I use Lucy Bee coconut oil, which I bought in my local health food shop) so I tried it in this recipe and it worked a treat, although you could also use melted butter.
These were a complete hit here – both children loved them. They are great for a weekend brunch, an afternoon snack or even in lunchboxes or for a picnic, now the weather’s cheered up a bit!
Rhubarb & Raspberry Muffins
Makes approx. 10 muffins
200g self-raising flour
½ tsp cinnamon
90g golden caster sugar
80g melted coconut oil (I used the microwave)
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla essence
2 or 3 stalks of rhubarb, sliced into ½ cm pieces
Handful of raspberries (fresh or frozen)
Flaked almonds, for sprinkling
Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
What to do:
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C Fan/350°F, and line your muffin tin with muffin cases.
- Sift the flour and cinnamon into a bowl, and stir in the sugar
- Stir the wet ingredients (melted oil, milk, eggs and vanilla essence) into the dry ingredients and mix, but don’t overmix – lumps are fine.
- Lastly, stir in the chopped rhubarb and the raspberries (if they’re frozen, straight from the freezer is fine)
- Spoon the mixture into the muffin cases, and sprinkle a little demerara sugar on top of each one for crunch.
- Finish each muffin with a good sprinkling of flaked almonds.
- Bake for about 30 mins – test with a skewer – and allow to cool on a wire rack.
I have been thinking about one-handed breakfasts lately – things you can successfully put together with a baby in one hand. I’ve managed scrambled eggs, toast (tricky to butter, mind) and porridge. Yippee. There is life after kids. OK, it’s not quite up to The Wolseley standards, (check out their breakfast menu here – OMG!!) but it does us just fine.
I love breakfast. In fact, I often start planning it the night before. Whether it’s soaking porridge oats in water in advance (helps them cook quicker), making pancake batter and sticking it in the fridge to save time, or simply laying the breakfast table to make for an easier morning – I am all about making breakfast easy, and tasty. It sets you up for the day, it’s a chance to sit down together, if only briefly, and just check in with each other.
I like trying new things for breakfast – Spelt Flakes are a new favourite, for instance, and we always have fruit – cut-up apple or orange, or maybe banana or blueberries – and the children drink milk or water. I don’t buy fruit juice. I will drink a cup of Assam tea first thing, and have coffee later on.
So I wanted to share a recipe for something else I like at breakfast: muffins. These banana pecan ones are really easy and not too sweet. The pecans give them a protein kick, which is a good energy booster for kids. You can’t make them one-handed, but you can make them in stages; get the dry ingredients all ready, then the wet, and then simply mix together. And no, you don’t need to be a chef – they are really easy!
Breakfast Banana Pecan Muffins
250g self-raising flour
75g pecans, chopped
1tsp baking powder
75g light brown sugar
1 ripe banana, mashed
1 egg, beaten
100ml vegetable oil
250ml whole milk
You will need a 12-hole muffin tin
What to do:
- Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F/Gas Mark 6
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a mixing bowl and stir in the pecans, the sugar and the cinnamon.
- In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.
- Combine the dry and wet ingredients in one bowl, mixing swiftly. The mixture can be quite liquid, don’t worry.
- Sprinkle some granulated sugar on top.
- Fill your muffin cases about three-quarters full, and then bake for 25-30 minutes.
Perfect for a quick breakfast or mid-morning with a coffee.
If you have any one-handed breakfasts you make – do share them.
Have a nice breakfast!
What a week! Talk about shock to the system. After two weeks off work, during which time the most difficult decision I had to make was whether to have more cheese or move onto pudding, it was back to earth with a bang as we went back to work and back to school here at OH HQ. When the alarm went off at 06:20 on Monday morning I swear it felt like I was getting up in the middle of the night.
So, just one week back and already my head is full of stuff, my house is full of clutter, my washing machine is just constantly full, and my purse is, er, empty. Hmm.
So in the spirit of thriftiness, I went through the kitchen cupboards and identified a few items that needed using up (dates, self-raising flour) and thought about what I could make, and what I could share with you, lovely blog reader. And came up with this, which is dead easy and very tasty. A slice with butter is perfect with a cup of tea on a winter’s afternoon, or it makes a good packed lunch addition (nut alert, mind you).
I made it with my 3-year-old, who was surprisingly helpful, helping me measure the ingredients, crack open the eggs and mix. A great team effort!
Date & Walnut Loaf
90g unsalted butter (at room temperature) + extra for greasing
90g soft brown sugar
250g self-raising flour
1tsp baking powder
½ tsp ground cinnamon
90g walnuts, roughly chopped
250g dates, stoned and roughly chopped
You will need a 1kg (2lb) loaf tin. Cuts into 12 slices.
What to do
- Lightly grease the loaf tin with butter.
- Combine the butter, sugar, egg, flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a large bowl and beat until well blended using a hand mixer. Add the walnuts, dates and milk and stir to mix.
- Spoon into the prepared loaf tin and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180˚C/160˚C Fan/350˚F for 1 hour until well risen and firm to the touch. A fine skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf should come out clean.
- Leave to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely. Serve sliced – and buttered, if you’re feeling indulgent.
I got the bread bug back in the spring. For weeks I lovingly made my dough, kneaded it, let it rise, knocked it back, let it rise again, shaped it, baked it and devoured it. But then, as quickly as I’d got into the habit, I fell out of it again. The usual story – busy at work, busy at home, and frankly it was all taking a bit too LONG.
Fast forward to the autumn and I wanted to try again. I wanted to know what was actually in my toast at breakfast time (no preservatives or E-numbers, thanks very much), I wanted to experience that feeling you get when you turn flour, yeast and water into a lovely springy dough by hand, that calm that descends as you knead, that feeling that you are partaking in something that humans have done for centuries; ‘Give us this day our daily bread.’ I wanted that therapeutic bread-making experience (man).
But I also needed to keep it real. I work. I have a family. I have a lot of boxsets to watch and blogs to read. I needed the simplest bread recipe IN THE WORLD. I consulted my cookbooks and found lots of differing opinions, lots of chat about precise water temperatures and thermometers, lots of mentions of spelt flour. I just wanted something easy that worked.
And where, dear reader, did I end up finding this recipe? ON THE YEAST PACKET. Of all places. Yup, the good old Allinson’s 6 x 7g Yeast Sachet packet has the winning bread recipe. It works Every Time. It is very easy. The bread tastes great. I like it. I am sharing it here. Try it. You will thank me. Your other half will thank me. Your offspring will thank me.
In return, I thank you for reading and sharing 🙂
Allinson’s Easy Bake Bread Recipe for Hand Baking (the name says it all, really)
650g (1lb 7oz) Allinson Strong White Bread Flour (or other SWBF)
10g (2tsp) salt
5g (1tsp) sugar
15g (½ oz) soft butter or 15ml vegetable oil
7g sachet of Allinson Easy Bake Yeast
400ml (14floz) warm water (1 part boiling, 2 parts cold)
What to do:
- In a bowl mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast. Rub in the butter, or stir in the vegetable oil.
- Add warm water and mix to form a soft dough. Knead for 10 minutes on a floured surface or until dough is smooth and elastic.
- Shape as desired and place into loaf tins* or onto warm greased baking sheets.
- Preheat oven to 230°C/450°F/Gas Mark 8 (or do this in about half an hour)
- Cover dough with cling film or a damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for around 45 minutes, or until double in size. (At this stage you can brush top of your loaf with milk and sprinkle seeds on top – pumpkin and poppy work well, I find.)
- Place in the centre of your preheated oven and bake for around 30 minutes (around 15 minutes for rolls). When ready, the bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.
- Remove from the oven and cool on a wire tray.
For wholemeal bread, follow the recipe above, using Allinson Wholemeal Bread Flour and add an additional 50ml (2floz) warm water.
*My top tip here is to pre-warm your loaf tins if you can; it seems to make a difference – just put in a v. low oven to warm through.
This post was not sponsored, not anything, just hopefully helpful!