Like most Mums I think that the hardest thing that I have to deal with is seeing my son in pain. Ben is 16 now and suffers from Chronic Pain syndrome. He took the very brave decision to drop back an academic school year and repeat Year 10 due to the amount of time he missed from school last year.
I am so proud of my son because not only is he keeping up with his studies and doing his GCSE examination but he is managing to do this on a few hours sleep every night, very potent medication and varying levels of pain, from bearable to not being able to walk and screaming all night long! Most people don’t realise quite what Ben has to go through on a day-to-day basis.
We don’t have much spare money, I gave up a full-time teaching job to look after him and now make wedding and celebration cakes from home. Consequently if Ben wants a treat, a meal out or a new game for his X-box, he has to wait until I have sold a cake or two.
My way of treating Ben is to let him choose what baking he wants me to do. Usually it is chocolate chip cookies but this week he asked for whoopie pies. I can’t take credit for this recipe as I found it in the Hummingbird Bakery’s “Cake Days” recipe book. I did, however, switch their natural yoghurt and milk for buttermilk as I had some that needed using up.
- 1 egg
- 150g caster sugar
- 150ml buttermilk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 75g melted margarine
- 275g plain flour
- 0.75 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 0.25 tsp baking powder
- 150g chocolate chips (I used a mixture of milk and dark)
- 170g butter
- 2Tbs cocoa
- 280g icing sugar
- 220g vanilla marshmallow fluff
- Preheat the oven to 170C / 150C fan
- Line a baking tray with parchment paper
- Beat the egg and sugar together until pale and fluffy
- Slowly add the buttermilk, margarine and vanilla to the eggs
- Add the dry ingredients
- Stir in the chocolate chips
- Heap large spoonfuls of the mixture onto the baking tray, allowing plenty of room for the mixture to spread. (I used and ice cream scoop but I think it was too big as the pies were HUGE!)
- Bake for 10-13 min then cool on a rack.
- Beat the icing ingredients together then pop in the fridge to firm up a little.
- Use the icing to sandwich the pies together. I made 6 pies but I think 10 is a better number as mine really were massive!
I don’t know about you but all this salted caramel and salted chocolate trend is old news to me! I’ve had a passion for chocolate coated salted pretzels for years. I always used salted butter in my baking. Why would you want to deprive your taste buds?
I can’t claim any credit for this recipe at all as I saw it on the Food Network channel and liked the look of it. It is from a chappie called Andy Bates who seemed to be sponsored by Tate and Lyle. I liked the look of it because I had everything I needed in my cupboards and it looked really straight forward. Plus it has one of my favourite ingredients in it, condensed milk!
Ingredients for the flapjack
Ingredients for the caramel
- 397g can of condensed milk
- 95g golden syrup
- 225g soft brown sugar
- 125g butter
- 2 Tbs glucose syrup
- 175g white chocolate, chopped
- sea salt.
- Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan/ gas 4
- Grease and line 10 in square tin
- To make the base, melt the butter and syrup together then stir in the oats.
- Tip into the prepared tin and press down firmly.
- Bake for approximately 15 min or until golden brown. Set to one side to cool slightly.
- Add the sugar, milk, butter and syrups to a heavy based pan.
- Heat gently, stirring until all the sugar dissolves.
- INcrease the heat and bring to the boil.
- Simmer for 8-10min , stirring constantly to prevent the caramel from sticking.
- Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped chocolate.
- Once smooth, pour the caramel over the flapjack and level with the back of a spoon.
- Sprinkle the salt flakes over then cover with another piece of greaseproof paper and gently press the salt into the caramel surface.
- Allow to set and cool then cut into finger slices.
With food allergies appearing to be on the increase, I thought it was high time that I started to work on a few allergen free recipes. One of the ladies who attends my sugarcraft class is gluten intolerant, since I always provide cake or cookies to my sugarcraft class I felt really mean giving Holly shop bought gluten-free food. In addition my son’s best friend, Lisa has recently been diagnosed as lactose intolerant. Lisa regularly eats with us so I have had to radically rethink my menus.
Gluten free flour is readily available in most supermarkets these days as is lactose free milk and cheese. This recipe uses a vegetable oil based margarine and gluten-free self-raising flour. The resulting biscuit is crisp on the outside and soft inside.
- 100g vegetable oil based margarine
- 100g caster sugar
- 200g gluten-free self raising flour
- 1 tbs golden syrup
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- Preheat the oven to 190C / 170C fan or gas mark 5
- Put all the ingredients in a food mixer and mix to a smooth dough
- Form into 16 small balls.
- Flatten them with your hand and place on 2 baking trays, allowing room for spreading.
- Bake for 7-10 minutes or until pale gold in colour
- Allow to cool slightly on the tray before moving to a rack to cool completely.
There are some recipes that are just so simple and so brilliant that they can be overlooked when searching for something yummy to bake. Flapjacks is one of those recipes. Yes, I know they are not the healthiest of snacks but I’m not suggesting you eat the entire batch to yourself and they keep really well in an airtight container.
I love the fact they are so versatile too. The ones in the photo are plain ones because my son is culinary challenged but I love them with a handful of glace cherries in, or a bit of coconut, topped with melted chocolate or with a bit a cinnamon and raisins in. I’ve even chopped up an eating apple and thrown that in too. This is a very forgiving recipe.
- Preheat the oven to 180C or 160C fan.
- Line a small Swiss roll tin with baking parchment (8 x12in)
- Melt the margarine, syrup and sugar together in a large saucepan.
- Add the rolled oats and any extra ingredients.
- Stir it well and tip into the tin.
- Press the flapjacks into an even layer using the back of a spoon or a spatula
- Bake for 20-30 minutes or until golden brown.
I think I’ve mentioned before that I always provide a freshly baked “something” for my ladies to have with a cuppa at sugarcraft class but it is not often they provide me with food. That is exactly what happened last night! I was given two large, homegrown courgettes (zucchini) with instructions to “Do something with them!”.
So when I got home I hit the books and found several recipes for courgette cake and zucchini bread. I have tried to make a courgette cake before but I really didn’t like it as I found it quite dense and tasteless. The recipe I settled on was by Rachel Allen, from her book “Bake”. I liked the look of this recipe because it had plenty of spices added to it and reminded me of a good carrot cake but with courgettes instead of carrots.
I took the liberty of tinkering with the ingredients slightly to suit my palate and the ingredients I had to hand. Rachel’s recipe calls for walnuts but I substituted them for sunflower seeds as I didn’t have any walnuts in stock.
This tea loaf is lovely and moist with the warm, spicy hit of traditional tea loaf. Rachel said her recipe is lovely toasted with a bit of butter and I can safely say I will be trying that in the morning for breakfast.
- 400g plain flour
- 0.5 tsp salt
- 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
- 0.5 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp cinnamon (heaped)
- 0.5 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 0.25 tsp ground cloves (level)
- 300g caster sugar
- 100g Demerara sugar
- 3 eggs
- 200ml sunflower oil
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 380g grated courgette (skin and flesh)
- 75g sunflower seeds
- Preheat the oven to 150C /130C fan or gas mark 2
- Line 2 loaf tins
- Sift together all the dry ingredients into a large bowl
- Add the courgettes and seeds
- Add the wet ingredients and mix well
- Divide the mixture between the 2 tins
- Bake for 1hr – 1hr 15min depending on oven and how evenly you divided the mixture.
- Allow to cool int he tin for 20-30 min before turning out onto a cooling rack.
As it is is National Cupcake week here in the UK, I thought I would treat my sugarcraft class to some. I’m not really a fan of cupcakes. I can’t see the point of all that buttercream and I get bored when I’m asked to decorate them. I can, however, see the point of a really good apple crumble. I’ve always said that if I was on death row my final meal would be apple crumble and custard!
This particular recipe is a bastardization of one by Eric Lanlard and Patrick Cox from their book, “Cox, Cookies and Cake”. I liked the idea of this cake because not only does it feature the flavours of my favourite pud but it also doesn’t have any buttercream topping.
The original recipe calls for 2 Bramley apples but I found the apple flavour a little lacking and dominated by the cinnamon. Having tinkered around with the recipe a little, I think I may have hit apple crumble gold! I tried it out on my class last night and was bombarded with requests for the recipe. So this one is for you, Janice!
For the crumble topping:
50g plain flour
50g soft brown sugar
0.5tsp ground cinnamon
For the cupcakes:
1 large Bramley apple, peeled, cored and diced
1 – 2 eating apple, peeled, cored and diced
1tsp ground cinnamon
0.5tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g soft brown sugar
2 free range eggs
350g self-raising flour
- Preheat the oven to 200C / 180C fan / gas mark 6 and line a muffin tin with cupcake cases
- Make the crumble topping by rubbing all the ingredients together. Set to one side for the moment.
- Place the Bramley apple into a saucepan with the cinnamon and 0.5Tbs water. Heat gently whilst stirring until the apple becomes soft and mushy.
- Allow to cool then push the apple through a fine sieve or ricer.
- Weigh a total amount of 250g of pureed apple and eating apple. Ideally you should have equal amounts of each but it really is just to personal taste.
- Stir the bicarbonate soda into the apple and leave to rest.
- Beat together the butter and sugar.
- Beat in the eggs
- Fold in the flour and apple sauce.
- Divide the mixture between the cupcake cases using an ice-cream scoop. This makes between 12-14 cupcakes.
- Sprinkle the crumble topping over each cake
- Bake for 20-25 minutes or until well risen and golden brown.
These cupcakes are lovely served with a cup of coffee but they are truly gorgeous served warm from the oven with a dollop of custard!
Many, many years ago, whilst I was working for Liverpool University, I had the good fortune to work with a lovely lady called Mariana Catapano. Mariana was living in student accommodation whilst on sabbatical with us but unfortunately didn’t have a television in her room. As an avid football fan who never missed a match, this was a fate worse than death. Consequently she would often come to my house for her tea and to watch the footie. Her contribution to the meal was a homemade tiramisu.
Now. Mariana told me that this was her grandmother’s recipe and that truly authentic tiramisu does not contain alcohol. Hey, she is Italian so I’m not going to argue with her!
I have been making Mariana’s tiramisu for the past 20 years and have never had a complaint. Not everyone likes coffee flavoured desserts, however. I’m sure if I tried to give it to my sister she would think I was trying to poison her! As a consequence and because I have a friend coming for tea who is in need of a bit of cheering up (tiramisu actually means “pick you up”), I have had a play with the recipe and come up with this coffee free alternative.
- 3 egg yolks
- 2 egg whites, whisked to a stiff peak
- 200 g caster sugar
- 1 standard tub of mascarpone cheese
- 300 ml hot chocolate or chocolate milkshake, warm
- 1 pack of sponge fingers
- 300g grated chocolate
- 4 – 5 tbs cocoa
- Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together until light and fluffy
- Beat in the mascarpone
- Fold the whisked egg whites into custard.
- Dip the sponge fingers into the hot chocolate and allow to soak up a little of the liquid then layer into a glass bowl.
- Pour over a layer of the custard
- Sift a little of the cocoa over the custard and then sprinkle over a layer of grated chocolate
- Repeat the layers until you have used up all the ingredients, making sure to finish on the cocoa and grated chocolate layer.
- Pop it in the fridge and chill for 3-4 hours or ideally overnight.
Obviously this recipe does contain raw eggs so should not be given to pregnant women, the elderly or infirm and the very young.