If the sense of relief I felt on Monday was anything to go by, I made the correct decision in moving out of my place in London. I had two busy weekends of sorting and packing things, but all that work should make it fairly straightforward for me to move in once I find my next place, which I’m hoping to buy rather than rent.
I did have a little break from packing to darn one of my dishcloths before putting it into storage.
I also marked my compost bin in the hope that a new tenant will keep using it.
A lot of craft time has been dedicated to my Oran do Chaora/Sinister Catdigan again this week. I’ve finished both sleeves and joined them into the body, which has now been set aside.
I mentioned last week that I’d started doing the maths for the colourwork yoke. Well, unfortunately I made a really stupid error with that calculation that resulted in me spending about four hours reducing the body section by one stitch.
Fortunately I re-checked my sums before I did anything too major and realised my mistake. I’ve now picked that stitch back up and the numbers on my Oran do Chaora body and sleeves should match the numbers on the finished Sinister Catdigan yoke.
I’ve done the crochet provisional cast on for the yoke and the first row of cats has emerged! It’s quite hard work managing the tension with long floats and a slippery yarn but I think it’s going okay so far.
It’s funny that I was looking forward to knitting the cats and it’s only now that I’m recalling how laborious this kind of knitting can be. Working the fair isle requires quite a lot of attention. It’s very easy to make errors and I’ve had to do more than my share of undoing. But it is fun to see the cats emerge row by row- in fact it’s pretty addictive.
I’m already starting to think about how I will do the decreases for the shoulder section. I’m not that fond of the neckline of SC and I think it will look odd to do a saddle shoulder above the fair isle section. Some more planning and maths is in order next week I think.
I fed my sourdough starter again in preparation for making my first loaf. I looked at some recipes and started to get a bit stressed because of all the equipment needed. I don’t have a banneton, baking stone or a dutch oven.
The loaf is a little disappointing. I used a pan as a lid following some advice online and I think it actually restricted her growth. Now I’m contemplating investing in a Dutch oven.
I try to eat well, and a big part of that is healthy snacks. I eat quite a lot of Nakd bars, and always wondered how easy it would be to make them at home. I recently tried out Deliciously Ella’s new range of energy balls, which are very tasty but also pretty expensive. I’m sure she already has a recipe online somewhere, but I just looked at the ingredients on the back and made up my own.
- 40g almonds
- 60g dates
- 2tsp nut butter
- 1/2tsp coconut oil
- 1tbsp cocoa powder
- A sprinkle of salt
Blend all the ingredients together. I just used my little hand blender.
After a while, the ingredients will start to come together.
Roll into balls. I added a little too much coconut oil, making them a bit shiny. They probably would have re-mattified once the warmth from my hands dissipated, but I decided to roll them in some cocoa powder. I was trying to trick myself into believing I am eating truffles.
This was so quick and easy! The texture is somewhere between a Nakd bar, some varieties of which have bits, and a smooth Ella ball. My little blender wasn’t able to make the nuts totally smooth. I think the taste is lovely too. I’ll definitely try out more varieties in future.
I found the recipe for this cake ages ago on Pinterest, and decided to have it as my birthday cake this year. Honestly, this was the most stressful baking experience I’ve had in ages. So many things went wrong and the cake ended up looking a mess. Here is a picture I managed to snap before I mostly destroyed the cake trying to transfer it off the baking parchment. However, this experience was also a reminder of how rubbish it is to be a perfectionist. Everyone in the office loved the cake.
I rediscovered the awesome combination of caramel, chocolate and pecans, kicked up a notch by salting the caramel. Next time I bake, I will most likely make salty turtle cupcakes or brownies.
Once again this post will be various process pictures. Hopefully I’ll have a better baking experience soon.
- 2cups (280g) plain flour
- 1.5cups ( 340g) sugar
- 1/2cup (60g) cocoa powder
- 1/2 cup (140g) melted butter
- 1 cup (250g) buttermilk
- 1 egg
- 1tbsp baking soda
- 1tsp salt
- 1 cup fresh coffee
- 1 cup (220g) sugar
- 1 cup (250ml) whole milk
- 6 tbsp (90g) butter
- 12oz (350g) dark chocolate
- 1-2 tsp hot coffee (optional)
- 1 1/2 pecan halves
- 1 cup sugar
- 6 tablespoons butter, salted
- 1/2 cup double (heavy) cream
- Extra salt to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Butter bottom and sides of three 8- or 9-inch cake pans and line bottom of each pan with parchment paper. Butter the paper; dust pans with unsweetened cocoa powder and set pans aside.
In a small bowl, stir together egg, buttermilk and oil
In a large bowl, stir together flour, sugar, 1/2 cup cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.
Slowly add buttermilk mixture to flour mixture, beating until combined.
Gradually beat in coffee
Divide batter evenly between prepared pans; layers will appear shallow.
Bake until a toothpick inserted near the centre comes out clean, about 22 to 25 minutes. Remove towire racks for 10 minutes. Loosen sides from pans, then invert cakes on racks. Remove cakes from pans. Peel off paper and cool completely.
I’ve made caramel twice recently and it has come out slightly greasy, but still tasty. I will look for a new recipe. I used the one from Sally’s Baking Addiction.
In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and milk. Add butter. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Add chocolate pieces. Using a wire whisk, stir until smooth. If frosting is too thick or grainy, stir in 1 to 2 teaspoons freshly brewed coffee. If necessary, let frosting stand for several minutes before using.
I forgot to toast the pecans, which definitely makes a difference.
This post is reminding me that perfectionism spoils my enjoyment of my cooking as well as my making. This cake tastes fine. Just because it doesn’t look like something that costs £4 a slice shouldn’t diminish that.
A few years ago, I overcame the dramatic and turbulent changes in my weight that I’d seen in my late teens and early twenties. One of my remaining bad habits was that I never ate breakfast. After finally losing weight, I was worried that increasing my food intake would lead to increasing my waistline. But I was also aware of some of my blood sugar highs and lows throughout the day and eventually I took the plunge.
I’ve never looked back since and I remain a committed consumer of brekkie. I love porridge in the winter, but had more difficulty finding healthy and filling ways to break my fast in summer. Cereal with fake milk was okay, but I was always starving by 10am. One day, I saw a former Australian housemate making something for his lactose intolerant sister, who was visiting. He grated apples. He did stuff with oats. He manipulated nuts and seeds. And I learned that Bircher Muesli exists.
I love Bircher Muesli in the summer. I am going to give the basic recipe I use. Please note that a little variation in the quantities is no problem. You must prepare this at least a few hours before serving, preferably the night before.
- 1 apple
- A squeeze of lemon juice
- 25g oats
- 75ml fruit juice or smoothie
I normally make five servings at a time and leave it in the fridge throughout the week. I add the following items to taste each day.
- A handful of berries, fresh or frozen
- A couple of tablespoons of Greek yoghurt
- A couple of tablespoons of nuts
- A little dried fruit
- A squeeze of honey
- Grate your apples. I think it’s important to do this by hand and use unpeeled apples to ensure a great texture (no pun intended)
- Squeeze over some lemon to prevent the apple from browning
- Add oats
5. Stir well and refrigerate.
6. In the morning, the oats will have soaked up lots of liquid. Stir in what you like just before serving and savour.
I’ve had my eye on the recipe for these delicious pecan and cinnamon cupcakes for a while. Unfortunately I didn’t read the recipe through before embarking as it is more time-consuming than most cupcake recipes, but the result is a very light and fluffy cupcake that is delicately spiced with an occasional pleasing crunch of pecan. Right up my alley. I made them with buttercream frosting but I think they would be even nicer with cream cheese frosting- a little tang rather than just additional sweetness. I thought I would spend a little bit of time on the decoration for once.
With the quantities given below, I got 24 mini cupcakes and six full sized ones. So I reckon 18 full sized cupcakes.
- 50g (1/2 cup) pecans
- 190g (3/4 cup) butter, at room temperature
- 215g (1 1/4 cups) caster sugar
- 3 large eggs- these will be separated
- 175g (1 1/4 cups) plain flour
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1/4tsp salt (1/2 tsp if you use unsalted butter)
- 1/2tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 1/4tsp ground cinnamon
- 120ml (1/2 cup) whole milk
- 1tsp vanilla extract
For the frosting
- 60g (1/4 cup) butter, at room temperature
- 400g (2 1/2 cups) icing sugar
- 1/2tsp vanilla extract
- 120ml (1/2 cup) double cream
- 4tbsp maple syrup
- Yellow food colouring
1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F. Line an 18 hole muffin pan with paper cases
2. Spread the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 6mins, until they are just beginning to brown at the edges. Allow to cool, then crush in a pestle and mortar.
3. In a large bowl or electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy (7-10mins).
4. Add the yolks one at a time, mixing until incorporated.
5. Combine flour, baking powder, salt and nutmeg in a mixing bowl, or the bowl of your scale. In a separate jug, combine milk and vanilla.
6. Add the dry ingredients to the creamed sugar and butter in three parts, alternating with the milk mixture. With each addition, scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure an even batter. Remember to begin and end with the dry ingredients.
7. Stir in the crushed pecans.
8. In a spotlessly clean bowl, whisk the egg whites until stiff.
9. Gently fold the egg white into the batter, in three parts.
10. Divide the batter between the paper cases, filling them three quarters.
11. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15mins, until just browning and passing the toothpick test.
12. Allow to cool in the pan for a couple of minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
Meanwhile, make the frosting.
1. In a medium bowl, beat the butter until soft.
2. Add sugar, vanilla, cream and maple syrup. Beat until smooth and creamy.
3. Put about a quarter of the frosting into a small separate bowl. Add food colouring until you get a really vivid yolk colour.
4. Once the cupcakes are totally cold, spread evenly with the white frosting using a palette knife or offset spatula. Drop about a teaspoon of the yellow frosting on top, a little to one side, for the yolk.
I was trawling the web for a simple but crowd-pleasing cake recipe when I spotted this lemon lovely. I was doubly pleased when I realised it had the added bonus of allowing me to use up the polenta and ground almonds kicking around in my cupboard. It turned out really nicely- a colleague thought I had bought it somewhere pricey like Ottolenghi. This colleague clearly has a discerning palette as the original recipe is indeed adapted from Ottolenghi. The cake is pleasingly sharp, dense and buttery. The polenta adds some extra bite.
Makes one 20cm loaf cake
- 150g butter
- 105g caster sugar
- 2 eggs, lightly
- 1 lemon (zest and 6tsp juice)
- 90g instant polenta*
- 180g ground pistachios**
- 40g plain flour
- 3/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp salt (1/2 if you use unsalted butter)
*If you don’t have enough polenta in your cupboard, you can make up the weight with more plain flour
**These are not widely available, so you can either substitute ground almonds or grind pistachios yourself (I used a spice grinder as my hand mixer is broken)
For the glaze
- 3tbsp sugar
- Juice of one lemon
For the lemon icing
- Juice of half a lemon
- 150g icing sugar
- 50-80g pistachios, roughly chopped
1. Pre-heat oven to 170C. Grease a 20cm loaf tin.
2. Cream the butter and sugar until combined, around 1-2 mins
3. Add eggs one at a time, mixing to incorporate
4. Add the lemon zest and juice, polenta and pistachios
5. Sift remaining dry ingredients into the batter and stir until just combined
6. Transfer batter to prepared loaf tin and smooth the surface with a spatula. Bake for 40-45 minutes until a knife comes out clean.
7. Leave to cool in the tin on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
8. Prepare the glaze/drizzle. In a small saucepan, combine the lemon juice and sugar and heat until the sugar has dissolved.
9. Pour the hot glaze over the still-warm cake, then leave to cool (still in the tin so the glaze doesn’t leak everywhere) completely.
10. Prepare the icing. Mix together the icing sugar and lemon juice. The icing should be pretty thick, but feel free to add a few drops of water if you feel it is too stiff.
11. Turn the cake out of the tin. The bottom side is likely to be the most presentable so leave it inverted.
12. Pour the icing over the top of the cake. Help it down the sides, particularly over any areas you want covered. Sprinkle the pistachios on top.
I know I posted a banana bread recipe a few months ago, but I couldn’t resist trying a new recipe when I had more browning nanas in the freezer. I took inspiration from here. This recipe is lower in fat but still moist and flavourful. It also freezes well and a slice makes a great breakfast or filling mid-afternoon snack.
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup butter
- 4 egg whites (you can substitute 2 whole eggs if preferred)
- 4-5 bananas, mashed
- 1/3 cup sour cream or plain yoghurt (use low-fat if you want)
- 1tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups plain flour
- 3/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup desiccated coconut
- 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
Makes 1 25cm (10in) loaf
- Preheat oven to 180C (160 fan). Prepare a 25cm loaf tin or cupcake case
- Cream together butter and sugar
- Add egg whites and mix thoroughly, until frothy
- Add mashed banana and sour cream
- Fold in flour, bicarb and salt
- Stir through coconut and nuts. The batter will be quite thick but add a tablespoon or two of milk or juice if it seems too thick.
- Transfer the batter to your prepared tin and bake for 1 hour – 75 minutes, until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. If your cake is looking too brown after 45 mins, cover lightly with foil.
This is the my third loaf of the year, a white bread packed with dried apricots and walnuts. It’s really tasty (I may have eaten nearly half of the loaf while it was warm from the oven) with a bit of butter- neatly straddling the border between cake and bread territory.
This bread didn’t rise too well and I think it might be because I had to freeze the dough. Maybe fortified dough isn’t as amenable to freezing? I think I’ll try it again and see if it rises better if the dough isn’t frozen.
- 350g/12oz strong white flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 sachet (2tsps) instant yeast
- 1tsp caster sugar
- 60g/2oz butter
- 115g/4oz dried apricots, chopped
- 55g/2oz walnuts, chopped
- 150ml milk (room temperature)
- 1 egg
- Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Stir in sugar and yeast.
- Rub in the butter, then add apricots and walnuts
- In a separate container, mix the egg and milk (I just whisk the egg into the jug I measure the milk in)
- Add to the dry ingredients and mix until a soft dough forms. If the dough seems dry, add up to 75ml tepid water.
- Transfer to a floured counter top and knead for 10 mins, until smooth.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for 2-3hours, until doubled in size.
I froze at this stage for uninteresting reasons. I would not recommend freezing this dough.
7. Knead the dough lightly for about 1 minute. You can divide into 5, rolling each section into a 30cm rope, then braiding 3 and placing the remaining 2 on top, twisted together. Or bung into a greased 1 pound loaf tin. Your call.
8. Cover with oiled cling film and leave to prove for a second time for 1-2 hours, until doubled in size. Preheat oven to 220C (200 fan).
9. Bake for 10mins, then reduce heat to 190C (175 fan) for a further 20mins.
10. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
I am a lifelong loather of the courgette (too slimy) but I bloomin’ love this light, moist , nutty chocolate cake. It’s made with olive oil rather than my usual butter as well, so much lower in saturated fat if you care about that sort if thing. Of course you could omit the nuts if you like. I think they help disguise the courgette- with them, you’d never guess this cake’s veggie little secret.
This cake is delicious smothered in ganache as below, or in this chocolate frosting. I had some left over from the cupcakes, so frugal and delicious.
Pointillist Siamese cat optional
- 175ml olive oil (any kind is fine)
- 325g golden caster sugar
- 3 eggs
- 2tsp vanilla extract
- 500ml grated courgette**
- 350g self-raising flour
- 50g cocoa powder
- 1tsp mixed spice
- 140g hazelnuts, chopped
For the ganache
- 200g dark chocolate, chopped
- 100ml double cream
**Measure by volume. This is 2 small-medium courgettes (about 350g by weight). I give the grated courgette a gentle squeeze, then pack it lightly into the measuring jug. The recipe is quite forgiving +/- about 100 ml but be careful if you use extra courgette- the cake will take much longer to bake.
Makes 1 (very large) 20cm cake or about 20 cupcakes
- Preheat oven to 180C (160C fan). Lightly grease a 20cm cake tin (I always use springform)
- Toast hazelnuts in the oven as it heats for around 10 mins, until they start to smell nutty and take on a golden colour. Watch them carefully from 10 mins as they can burn easily.
- In a large bowl, combine the olive oil, sugar, eggs, vanilla essence and grated courgette.
- Add the dry ingredients and mix until just combined.
- Add the hazelnuts, chopped. You will end up with a thick batter that will dome up well.
- Bake for 60-80mins, until the cake passes the knife test.
Leave to cool completely on a wire rack. Don’t worry if the top looks a bit funky, it’ll be covered. Meanwhile, make your frosting or ganache.
For the ganache, scald the cream in a small saucepan, remove from the heat, fold in your finely chopped chocolate and stir until smooth, glossy and irresistible.
Here is the cake with frosting, but without cat chasing mice motif.
Yes, I know Christmas was a month ago. Don’t judge me.