Saturday, 30 March 2013

Recipe - Easter Biscuits

Easter Biscuits are a great treat and an alternative gift to chocolate eggs. My Easter Biscuits recipe are all baked, gift wrapped and ready to be delivered in my new hamper on Easter Sunday, just need to get my bunny ears out of the cupboard. 

Easter Biscuits Recipe
Easter Biscuits Recipe

Easter Biscuits Recipe
Makes 15-17 biscuits
Oven temp 200 degrees C

Ingredients
75g caster sugar
100g butter (softened)
1 egg separated
200g plain flour
pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground mixed spice
50g currants
1 level tablespoon mixed peel
1-2 tablespoons milk
egg white
caster sugar for sprinkling

Method
  • Cream together to butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Mix in the egg yolk.
  • Sift the flour, salt, and spices into the butter and sugar mixture.
  • Add the fruit
  • Add the milk, you should have a soft dough.
  • Onto a floured surface gently roll out the mixture, until 1/2 cm thick.
  • Cut out your biscuits using a fluted round pastry cutter, I used sized 3inch / 7 1/2cms
  • Place them onto a lined baking tray and bake for 10 minutes oven temp 200 degrees. 
  • Remove them from the oven and using a pastry brush carefully brush each biscuit with egg white and then sprinkle with caster sugar. 
  • Place back in the oven for a final 10 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven when lightly golden and allow to cool for ten minutes before carefully transferring to a cooling rack.

Easter Treats Hamper
I'm entering my Easter Biscuits into March's Calendar Cakes baking challenge hosted by Laura from Laura Loves Cakes and co-hosted by Rachel from Dolly Bakes.  The theme this month is Easter Extravaganza - yes I know these are not technically cake but they have the same ingredients (almost!). 
                                                           

John Lewis Easter Basket



I was most delighted over the Easter weekend to receive an Eggstra special Easter delivery from John Lewis. This egg themed basket did not contain a single ounce of chocolate, just everything needed to cook the perfect eggs. So my Easter Eggs this Easter Sunday will not just be of the chocolate kind but either poached, boiled, fried or scrambled. 

Inside the pretty floral lined white whicker basket was 

  • set of 2 Eddingtons Silicone Egg Poachers 
  • Egg Perfect Egg Timer,  
  • John Lewis "The Pan" Egg Poacher, 
  • Tefal Speciality One Egg Wonder Frying Pan
  • Poachies Egg Poaching Bags 
I have already put the John Lewis 'The Pan" through it's paces. I have never cooked poached eggs this way, but it was very straight forward and a few minutes later out popped my poached egg. I think a minute less and the yolk would of been lovely and runny. This way of poaching eggs is much easier than swirling an egg in a pan of hot water, particularly for me and my aversion to vinegar.  Of course this pan can be used other than just poaching eggs, the poaching pan lifts of the top leaving you with a deep lidded frying pan that is not to weighty. 



I have used the Poachies bags before and they are very handy for taking on holiday. I'm looking forward to trying the Silicone Egg Poacher, they seem practical and straight forward. 

I was delighted to see the Perfect Egg Timer in the hamper. Whenever I make boiled eggs I have a habit of thinking I have set the timer on the oven to remind me when it's four and a half minutes is up - no need for the timer now!

As for the One Egg Wonder Frying Pan well that will be put to very good use for those days when only a fried egg sandwich will do.

I would like to thank John Lewis for sending me this Eggstra special Easter basket.

Friday, 29 March 2013

Derby - Bakewell, Mills and Tea Cakes


Last week I spent a wonderful break touring delightful Derbyshire villages such as Tissington, Bakewell and Matlock Bath. I indulged in warm scones fresh from the oven, corn beef pasties, and Bakewell Pudding (well not me I'm afraid I don't like  Bakewell pudding). I treated myself to some amazing scented candles, Geranium and Chamomile, and vintage sweet shop that was sadly closed on the day I visited, but I would of had a field day in. 

I also popped into Derby and can recommend Sadlergate area in the Cathedral district, it has some wonderful shops as well as the impressive Cathedral. I had an amazing Mocha at a cafe/bakery called Baked, I never before been asked if I would like one or two shots of espresso in a mocha - two of course! 

I enjoyed a trip to Sir Richard Arkwright's 1783 Masson Mills at Matlock Bath if only for one of the two demonstrations each day of some of the machinery working. I was truly unprepared for the noise just three of the looms made, it must of been horrendous with hundreds of them working at once all those years ago. I will have to watch the BBC's North and South again very soon.
Monster Tea Cakes
Thanks to a giveaway run by A Mummy Too last year, this break away did not cost a penny - I stayed at The Birchover Apartments, which were outstanding.  I had even taken my GBBO Show Stoppers Recipe Book with me along with the ingredients to make some tea cakes. All went well with the tea cakes with one exception, I forgot to take the correct size pastry cutter so ended up with biscuits to big to sit inside the mould. They resembled rather large tea cakes!
Calke Abbey Primula Theatre 
With the threat of serious snow on its way it was a quick visit to the National Trust Calke Abbey, which for various reasons was not the most enjoyable of property visits. However, the two best features were the Chocolate, Pear and Hazelnut Sponge pudding with custard in the restaurant, and the amazing Auricula Theatre in the walled garden. It being a little early in the season for Auriculas was planted with brightly coloured Primulas. 


Sunday, 24 March 2013

Book Review - Soil Mates Companion Planting

Handy sized book
A review of Soil Mates by Sara Alway published by Quirk books.


This is not your average gardening book. It is not a large like most gardening books can be, so there is no need to clear your lap to read it. There are no glossy pages full of perfectly styled vegetable beds, that your average gardener could not attain. Just good practical advise presented in a humours way, it's like a dating guide for vegetables. Is there a Love Match between plants? What turns them on or off? Caution if there is a Stalker Alert as this warns you of which pests you should you be wary of.

It talks you through which vegetables are best together, those that will be of benefit from growing near or next to each other. I used some of these tips when I did my Vegetable plan for this year, it will be interesting to see if my strawberries, lettuce and carrots create a love triangle as suggested in the book.

The book also includes recipes for each of the vegetables. There is practical guide to using natural pesticides, for keeping those stalkers at bay. The planting guide at the back of the book is helpful as you can adjust your planting to suit your country and climate.
Cucumber just loves corn
What I love about the book?

This is a  practical but amusing guide   to companion planting.

There are some lovely illustrations  of plants in  the  book, this  is  a  nice change  from photographs  which feature specific   plant  varieties,  which invariable are not the ones you are growing.

The terminology for each plant profile is funny and entertaining, presented with humorous symbols yet very clear to understand.


Soil Mates is available to buy online for £10.49, for more information about PGUK Books follow them on Twitter or Facebook

Thanks to PGUK Books who kindly sent me a copy of Soil Mates to review, all opinions expressed are my own.

Friday, 22 March 2013

Recipe - Big, Soft Frosted Vanilla Sugar Cookies


You may remember in January I reviewed the fantastic Pure Vanilla Book. I have been meaning to share this recipe with you for some time as I was truly blown away with these heavenly tasting big cookies. It is a recipe I shall be keeping for a long time and baking many more, it's a keeper!

I had made quite a large batch of these so managed to freeze some of the biscuits and a small container of the frosting too, they both defrosted well and tasted equally as yummy as they were fresh.

Big, Soft Frosted Vanilla Sugar Cookies Recipe by by Shauna Server

Cooking time: 15-17 minutes

Makes: 18

Ingredients

Vanilla Sugar Cookies

3 1/2 cups cake flour* (or make your own measure out 3 1/2 cups  of plain flour into a bowl, remove 7 tablespoons of the plain flour and replace it with 7 tablespoons of corn flour)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
2 tablespoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (I used golden syrup)

Vanilla Frosting
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (room temperature)
4 cups icing sugar (sifted)
1/4 cup milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla bean paste
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Cooking Directions
  1. Sift flour, salt and baking powder together into a bowl. Into a separate bowl beat the butter and vanilla extract until creamy.
  2. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs and golden syrup.
  4. Beat egg mixture into butter mixture until smooth, light and fluffy.
  5. Gradually stir in the flour mixture.
  6. Cover bowl with cling film and refrigerate for about 2 hours, until firm.
  7. Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Preheat to 325 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets
  8. Using either a standard ice-cream scoop or like I did two large spoons drop dough in 1/4 cup scoops onto the baking sheets, 3 per sheet. You will need to batch bake.
  9. Bake for around 15-17 minutes until just pale golden around the edges. You may need to rotate the baking sheets part way through baking.
  10. Allow the cookies to cool on baking sheets for at least 10 minutes, then transfer to cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough.
To make the frosting

  • Place all ingredients into a bowl, begin beating slowly increasing the speed. 
  • Beat until smooth and creamy, about 1 minute.
  • Frost cookies generously once cooled. 

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Review - Lizi's Organic Granola a Mothers Day Breakfast special


Granola is one of my favourite breakfasts, I don't like traditional muesli but I do love granola (toasted muesli). What better way to start a special pampering Mother's Day than to have a tasty and healthy breakfast laid out on the table awaiting the arrival of my mum. With a large packet of Lizi's Organic Granola waiting to be opened, accompanied by a large bowl of fresh fruit and some organic natural yogurt, breakfast was served. A few pots of carefully dug up Crocuses and Snowdrops from the garden helped to bring the feel of Spring to the breakfast table.

Granola makes a excellent breakfast, and Liz's granola is specially formulated to have a low GL (glycaemic load), which to the likes of you and me basically means the energy is released slowly, keeping your tummy feeling fuller for longer. It also contains flaked almonds and) for a touch of luxury. The Organic Granola contains a wonderful array of jumbo rolled oats, Rapeseed oil, Agave syrup, chopped nuts - hazelnuts, pistachio (my favourite!), desiccated coconut, pumpkin seeds (yum), concentrated apple juice, black treacle, flaked almonds, golden linseeds and sunflower seeds. All is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

A 500gr bag of Lizi's organic granola retails for £4.99, which I think is well priced for Organic granola - you get what you pay for, look for cheaper and you will be disappointed I know from past experience with granola. The bag is resealable, so no need to decant the contents into a container to keep it fresh, which also makes for easy storage. This granola not only tastes good but is good for you, both your physical health and lifestyle. Why is it good for your lifestyle - well because Lizi's organic granola supports organic farmers, both in the UK and in Mexico and the lorries shipping the granola around the UK run on natural gas. 

I have also spotted a bag of Belgian Chocolate Granola on Lizi'z website, which sounds like a really treat! In the meantime I will continue to happily munch my way through granola, yogurt and fruit for breakfast.

It may have been Mother's Day on Sunday but that does not mean I could leave my dad having breakfast on his own. Surprisingly to me this was the first time my dad had ever had granola, yogurt and fruit for breakfast, but I think it certainly will not be the last.

I was sent a packet of Lizi's Organic Granola for the purposes of review, all opinions are my own.

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Recipe - Alice in Wonderland Shortbread


Iced shortbread biscuits
I confess to baking yet more shortbread, this time it's a chance for me to use a biscuit cutter I received as a Christmas present from one of my sisters. This cutter give you a delicate sized biscuit with a plunger that marks the words 'Eat Me' on the biscuit. 

I followed my trusted Shortbread biscuit recipe, it never lets me down. Once the shortbread biscuits have cooled the fun begins - icing. I use Silver Spoon, Royal Icing Sugar to decorate my biscuits. It really is a trouble free method for making smooth royal icing every time. 

I like to refer to these as my Alice in Wonderland biscuits because of the tempting 'Eat Me' motto, I could do with being a little taller - maybe a few of these will do the trick!


Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Strawberry Bundt Cake



For sometime now I have been admiring the wonderful Bundt cakes created by Rachel at DollyBakes. Since December a shiny new Bundt tin has been sitting in the cupboard waiting to be used, and I  spotted the perfect recipe the Springtime Strawberry Bundt at DollyBakes.

I halved Rachel's original recipe as my tin was half the size of a standard bundt, and obviously needed less time in the oven.  I made sure I greased the tin thoroughly, and the cake turned out easily and all in one piece.

I decorated the cake with some some simple runny icing - icing sugar with a little water and a spot of strawberry essence and red food colouring then sprinkled with a touch of glitter. A quick photo and then the Strawberry Bundt Cake was then packed off to work to help  celebrate a colleagues birthday. 

The cake tasted wonderful and the texture was light and moist, I always thought that Bundt cakes looked quite a dry cake but how wrong I was. Loved the idea of using yogurt in the recipe it really worked a treat. 

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Recipe - Apricot and Yogurt Scones


Last month Foodies100 linked up with Greek Gods Yogurt and challenged bloggers to create an Aphrodite inspired recipe for valentines day. I knew my recipe would be something baked, but what? - a cake, pudding or something else? 

I was sent a large pot of Vanilla and Honey Greek Gods Yogurt to fire up my inspiration. Yogurt is something I normally reserve for serving with fresh fruit and granola or baking American pancakes with.

I knew I wanted to include fruit in the recipe and I also wanted to add an English theme into the mix. Resulting in the recipe - Apricot and Yogurt Scones

Apricots are used frequently in Greek recipes but not normally in a scone recipe, you normally would not find any yogurt in a scone either. But by replacing the milk with this tasty Vanilla and Honey yogurt, you end up with some well risen and very scrumptious scones. 

Where is the romance? It is all in the heart, or in this case a fruity heart shaped scone, which I think considering they were so well risen have just about maintained their shape. 

So pop the kettle on or open a bottle of wine then put your feet up and share a scone with a loved one. Keeping your heart in mind  you can either be healthy and serve with yogurt and honey, or try them with butter and apricot jam. Either way they are delicious, as vouched for by my 81 year old Auntie Betty who I dropped by to visit later in the afternoon along with some of the scones. I received a call from her the next day, she thoroughly enjoyed them and ate both of them in one sitting!

Apricot and Yogurt Scones Recipe


Cook time: 20 minutes Temp fan oven 200 degrees C

Ingredients
  • 300g plain flour
  • 75g butter
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 20g baking powder
  • 130g dried apricots (chopped)
  • 200ml yogurt (honey and vanilla)
  • a drop of milk
  • 1 egg beaten
Cooking Directions
  1. Sift the flour into a bowl and add the butter, rub the ingredients between your finger tips until they resemble breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the baking powder, sugar and apricots and mix well.
  3. Add a drop of milk to the yogurt just to slacken it off slightly. Add the yogurt to the bowl and mix with a wooden spoon, bring together with your hands.
  4. The mix should now resemble a soft dough, don't roll the dough out.
  5. Onto a lightly floured work surface flatten out the dough with your hands until a quarter inch thick.
  6. Cut out your scones using a pastry cutter, I used a heart shaped cutter. Place on a baking tray and brush the tops with some beaten egg.
  7. Ensure the oven is hot and bake for 20 mins, they should be golden brown.
  8. Allow to cool on a wire rack.


I would like to thank Greek Gods yogurt for suppling the carton of Vanilla and Honey yogurt.