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Advent Calendar Day 3: Jammy Presents

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Tonight I’m wrapping Dr Doolittle’s jam for Christmas presents whilst eatting Brownies made by my brilliant mate Ruth! If she shares the recipes, then I will….

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The Doc is amazing at making jam…. Chilli Jam, Rhubarb and Ginger Jam, Plum and Ameretto Jam, Mixed Fruit Jam, Blackberry and Vanilla Jam… The list is endless!

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He makes it, he labels it, I put pretty frilly hats on and pop them in a box!

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My favourite jam is the blackberry one.

Ingredients

800 grams of blackberries
1 kilo of jam sugar (sugar with pectin added to it).
1 vanilla pod
Several empty jars and lids (4/5)
A heavy/thick bottomed pot

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Sterilise jars, then wash and prepare blackberries.

Add seeds of the vanilla to the jam sugar and blackberries, then over a medium heat, slowly heat up the mixture and stir until all of the sugar has dissolved. Do not let it boil at this point.

Once it has dissolved, bring to the boil…. Once the pot has started boiling furiously set a timer for four minutes, and let boil.

Once your four minutes is up, remove from the heat and test to see if your jam has set. Place a teaspoon of jam on a plate, and then place it in the fridge for a minute or two. If the jam is still runny after being in the fridge then return the pot to the heat and boil for another two minutes, and repeat the test. Keep doing this – boiling for two minutes and testing – until your jam sets on the plate.

Once set, give the pot a good stir, remove the jars from the oven, and ladle in the jam into the hot jars, working quickly.

Wipe any spills off of the rim of the jar and sides with a clean warm cloth. Remove the lids from the water and screw on tightly.

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Melissa xx

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Lemony Cupcakes

I’m still in my cupcake phase and I still don’t know where it came from. For years I was very against cupcakes- they’re just jazzed up versions of old fashion fairy cakes! I loved fairy cakes growing up; little cakes with chocolate chips or sultanas in…. With a blob of runny white icing running down the paper case. Delicious! So why make fancy versions, that were inevitably too sweet with way too much icing on top?

Maybe I just decided that life is too short to worry about such complicated matters, cake is still cake after all!

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Lemon Cupcakes
125 g butter, softened
200 g caster sugar
3 eggs
150 ml milk
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp vanilla
300 g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

For the icing
Rind of 2 lemons
1 tbsp lemon juice
175 g butter, softened
600 g icing sugar, sifted
1 bottle of Dr Oetker Violet Crystals

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Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/gas 3. Line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper cases. I actually got 18 out of the mixture.

Cream the butter until soft in a large bowl or in an electric food mixer. Add the sugar and beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Whisk the eggs together in a small bowl for a few seconds just until mixed, then gradually add them to the creamed butter mixture, beating all the time.

Beat in the milk and lemon juice, followed by the vanilla, then sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and fold in gently to combine.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases, filling each case about two-thirds full. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until well risen, lightly golden in colour and springy to the touch. Allow to cool for 5 minutes, then remove from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool completely.

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Finally mix up all the buttercream ingredients and pop into a piping bag, pipe onto cupcakes and finish off with a sprinkle of Dr Oetker’s violet crystals.

By the way, I was a little confused when the guys from Finish emailed to asked if they could send me

1x Finish Salt
1x Finish Powerball Quantam Max
1x Finish Rinse Aid
1x Finish Dishwasher Cleaner

Why? I’m a home baker that blogs about cupcakes, I’m not WHICH? magazine! Then I realised that I do bung all my bowls and utensils straight into the dishwasher once my cakes are in the oven. So I thought I’d give it a bash. Dr Doolittle read the instructions and filled the various dishwasher compartments with the various cleaners.

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I was genuinely shocked at how good the Finish Dishwasher tablets was! We normally buy own brand dishwasher tablets and am used to the dishes coming out washed. I couldn’t believe how sparkling and shiny the pots and pans were AND how clean the inside of the dishwasher was too! Who would have thought?!

Off to bake more and therefore wash more!

Melissa xx

Happy Birthday Me!

I’m another year older and for the first time, I actually feel wiser! I’ve done so much over the last year, started and new job AND started researching for my dream of having my own teashop.  No doubt the next year of my life will be just as busy and exciting. Whatever happens, I can guarantee that there’ll be cake along the way!

So what better way to celebrate than by making my own birthday cake.

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Chocolate Celebration Cake

Ingredients:
200g good-quality plain chocolate, chopped
200g butter
100ml water
125g self-raising flour
125g plain four
25g cocoa powder
200g light muscovado sugar
200g golden caster sugar
3 free-range eggs
75ml/2½fl oz crème fraîche

For the vanilla buttercream icing:
100g unsalted butter, softened
200g icing sugar
vanilla
milk, to loosen

For the topping:
200g dark chocolate
100g butter
40ml tblsp water
1 punnet of strawberries

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Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease and line two 8in sandwich tins.

Melt the chocolate, butter and water together in a saucepan over a low heat, stirring occasionally, until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly. Meanwhile, sift the flours and cocoa powder into a bowl and mix in the muscovado and caster sugar.

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Beat the eggs and crème fraîche together in a separate bowl, then beat in the chocolate mixture. Fold in the flour mixture until smooth.

Divide the cake batter between the tins and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the top is firm to the touch.

Meanwhile, for the vanilla buttercream, beat the butter in a bowl until soft, then gradually beat in the icing sugar. Add the vanilla  and add a few drops of milk if the mixture is a little stiff.

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For the ganache I used the recipe on the back of the Dr Oetker Extra Dark Chocolate pack.

Put 200g chopped Dr. Oetker 90% Chocolate into a heatproof bowl with 100g unsalted butter and 40ml water. Put over saucepan of barely simmering water and stir until melted. Remove from the water and cool for about 20 minutes to thicken.

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Put a cake on a wire rack over a large plate. Spoon ganache over the top, letting it run down the sides. Tap the wire rack to smooth the surface.

Finally, I covered the top of the cake with a punnet of fresh strawberries.

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I’ve been spoilt rotten with cards, presents and flowers. I’m truly blessed.

Melissa xx

Apple and Blackberry Oaty Muffins

Sometimes I do try to bake a little cleaner, I don’t always use tonnes of sugar and chocolate! These little Apple and Blackberry Oat Muffins are based on an a Rachel Allen recipe in which she uses apples and sugar to make a fresh apple sauce.

400 apple sauce- puréed apples in a jar!
100ml Sunflower Oil
75g Porridge Oats
225g Plain Flour (sifted)
3tsp Baking Powder
36 Blackberries

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Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius and line a 12-cup muffin tray with paper cases. Pour the apple puree into a bowl and stir in the oil and oats. Sift in the flour and baking pour and fold gently.

Divide the mixture between the muffin cases and place three or four blackberries on top of each muffin.

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and lightly springy to the touch. Cool in the tin for five minutes before placing on a wire rack to cool.

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So they didn’t rise very much and the texture was a bit odd but otherwise they were delicious!

Melissa xx

Apple pastries

I wasn’t going to share this recipe because it’s embarrassingly easy, but I’ve been asked to…. I don’t have any photographs of the process so you’ll have to use your imagination!

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I had been given a bag of home grown bramley apples by a dear friend and have had great fun making pies, turnovers and chutnies. These apple turnover pastries can be made and in the oven in minutes.

Ingredients:
1.3kg/3lb Bramley apples, peeled, core removed and quartered
75g/2½oz soft light brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
1 lemon, zest only

For the pastry:
Plain flour, for dusting
500g/1lb 2oz puff pastry
1 egg

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Roughly chop the apples into bite-sized pieces. Put them in a large saucepan with the sugar, cinnamon, ginger and three tablespoons of water. Stir together well, cover with a lid and put on a low heat to cook for about eight minutes. Then give it a stir and cook for another 8-10 minutes, or until the apples are soft but not too mushy.

Remove the apples from the heat. Finely grate the zest from the lemon over to taste, and leave to cool completely.

I used ready roll pastry and manged to get four oblongs out of each sheet; cut down the middle of both sides and arrange them on the lined baking sheet.

Crack the egg into a mug, whisk it lightly and then using a pastry brush, brush around the edge of each pastry rectangle. Then put a couple of chunks of the apple on one half of each rectangle. Then fold the other half of the pastry over the apple and use your fingers to press the edges down to seal. Press in nice and tight to the apple so everything is snug and cosy. I used a fork to crimp the edges.

Brush the pies liberally with the remaining egg and sprinkle with caster sugar and mark a hole in the top of the pastries with a sharp knife. Put them in the oven for about 25 minutes until crisp and golden brown.

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It might be Saturday, but the party will still be in full swing over at Angie’s place for Fiesta Friday!

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Melissa xx

Lemon and Raspberry Muffins

A few weeks ago the lovely people at Donegal Rapeseed oil tweeted that they were looking for recipes using their oil. I cheekily tweeted back that I’d be happy to come up with a recipe if they sent me a bottle, so they sent me four!!! I was utterly shocked to receive a beautiful gift box containing lemon, chilli, garlic and a honey and mustard dressing.

It is multi-award winning oil; the garlic infused oil has a wonderful ‘just pressed’ garlic flavour ideal to cook fish and seafood, or simply used to roast potatoes or drizzle onto pizza. The chilli flavoured oil is perfect for adding spice to your cooking. It is great for stir-fries or use to inject some spice to any casserole, soup or pasta dish. The lemon infused oil is zesty, refreshing oil that will ignite your taste buds. It is fantastic for cooking fish and chicken, and delightfully refreshing drizzled on a summer salad.

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gift box

Donegal Rapeseed Oil website explains that it has less than half the saturated fat of olive oil, resulting in it being one of the healthiest culinary Oils in the market.

It says it contains no artificial colours, flavours, or preservatives, and is a natural source of healthy fats known as omega 3, 6, and 9. Omega 3 and 6 are essential in the diet and are well known for their health benefits. They help to maintain normal cholesterol levels in the body, which is important for a healthy heart and cardiovascular system. It is a rich source of vitamin E, a natural antioxidant which helps to protect the body’s cells from damage.

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beautiful colour

Sticking to what I know best, I thought that I would bake something sweet. I decided to go for some classic, easy to make, fruity muffins and use the lemon oil, which smelt incredible and had a wonderful fresh zesty flavour!

Lemon and Raspberry Muffins

250g plain flour

150g caster sugar

2.5 teaspoon baking powder

0.25 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

240ml milk

115ml Donegal Lemon Rapeseed Oil

2 eggs

190g fresh raspberries

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muffin mix

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and line a muffin tray. In one bowl whisk together the oil, milk and eggs and in a second bowl combine the dry ingredients.

Stir half on the dry ingredients to the oil, milk and egg mixture, ensuring that it is mixed thoroughly. Then fold in the second half of the dry ingredients.

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mix

Finally, fold the raspberries into the mix. Using a teaspoon carefully place the mix into the muffin cases and pop into the oven. Bake for 20 minutes, until slightly golden.

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muffin cases

Leave to cool on a wire rack.

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lemon and raspberry muffins

The smell and the taste of these muffins are incredible! The Donegal Lemon Rapeseed Oil works brilliantly to give these muffins a wonderful light texture and fantastic taste.

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Lemon and Raspberry Muffins

I’m bringing these beauties to Angie’s party over at Fiesta Friday!

Melissa xx

Welcome to the party Winter Warmer

Happy 1st birthday Fiesta Friday! I received this invite to the Fiesta Friday block party, a two week blogger party hosted by Angie at The Novice Gardener. I’m delighted to be attending….

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I’m bringing this delicious winter warmer to welcome guests as they arrive at the party. It’s fruity, spicey and can be made with or without alcohol.

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I made the cocktail in one of my Christmas presents, a beautiful cast iron milk pan.

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I gathered together some star anaise, cloves and cinnamon.

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I popped them in the pot with some apple juice.

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I brought the juice to the boil slowly to infuse the juice.

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Finally, I popped in a shot of the honey vodka that I brought home from India.

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Other cocktails that I’ve brought to previous Fiesta Friday partys include
Elderflower Fizz

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And a Sparkly Cosmo

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I’m bringing a tray of ‘welcome to the party’ winter warmers to the party… Happy Fiesta Friday!

Melissa xx