c 2011 | Garden, Tea, Cakes, (Books) and Me

Shortbread Fingers Recipe

Easy Shortbread Recipe Cookies Biscuit
One of my trusted recipes is Shortbread Fingers, along with the Rock Buns but lets leave them for another time.I'm sure that like me you have an old favourite recipe book that contains some of your most trusted recipes. Mine is the 39th Edition Home Recipes with Be-Ro Flour, which if memory serves me correct used to belong to my mum until I nabbed it. 
Recipe for Shortbread Fingers
Shortbread Fingers Recipe

Shortbread Fingers

250g (9oz) plain flour
75g (3oz) caster sugar
175g (6oz) butter

Heat oven to 160 degrees C / 325 degrees F / Gas 3
15-20 mins
Grease a baking tray
Mix flour and sugar in a bowl, rub in butter.
Knead well to form a smooth paste.
Roll out into a rectangle, cut into fingers. 
It's traditional to decorate the top of Shortbread Fingers with fork marks. But, as I had made these for Christmas present especially for my aunt I used one of my cake decorating tools to imprint the tops with stars. 

Place on baking tray and bake in the oven until pale and golden.
Recipe for Shortbread
Shortbread Recipe
Now I could not help but sample a biscuit whilst they were still slightly warm, quality control checks are an important part in baking don't you know.  Of course I then had to also check they tasted just as delightful when they had cooled, and rest assured they were the perfect companion to have with a cup of tea.

Quality checks satisfied the Starry Shortbread was suitably gift wrapped and delivered on Christmas Eve.  I had kept a small amount in reserve, which originally were intended to also be gifts. But, I confess the giving part of the Christmas spirit failed me and they ended up being demolished on Christmas Day with the help of my brother.
Shortbread Fingers Recipe
Shortbread a Christmas Foodie Gift
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Rice Krispie Chocolates Recipe

I think everyone is familiar with Chocolate Rice Krispie Cakes, so here is a clever and sophisticate use of the recipe. Hand made chocolates a great Rice Krispie Recipe idea and perfect Christmas edible gift too. I would like to thank my friend Helen over at Living is a Great Adventure Blog for the idea behind these chocolates.  
Easy Rice Krispie Chocolates Recipe Christmas

I used a typical chocolate Rice Krispies recipe.
You will need the following:-

chocolate moulds
90g Rice Krispies or Corn Flakes
100g dark chocolate
3 tbsp golden syrup
60g butter

  • First you should crush up the Rice Krispies, I did this by putting them in a blender and pulsing.  
  • Melt the butter, chocolate and syrup together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water.
  • Then add this mixture to the Rice Krispies, mixing thoroughly. 
Easy Rice Krispie Chocolates Recipe Christmas

Easy Rice Krispie Chocolates Recipe Christmas

You should then put the mixture back into the blender again, this will make for a much smoother mixture.   Spoon this into your chocolate moulds, making sure you fill all the corners. 

Tip - If you don't have any moulds you could roll them into small balls.  

Easy Rice Krispie Chocolates Recipe Christmas
Put them in the fridge or freezer to set. I used the freezer as I only had eight moulds, and needed to re-use them for the rest of the chocolate mixture. The second batch came out much better as I realised I had not ensured the chocolate was in every nook and cranny of the mould.  

This was the first time I had used silicone moulds, which I received as my secret Santa present at work last year. I was surprised at how easily the chocolates popped out of the moulds. 
Easy Rice Krispie Chocolates Recipe Christmas

I experimented (as you do) and added some edible glitter and tiny holly leaves and berry sprinkles to the bottom of some of the moulds.
Easy Rice Krispie Chocolates Recipe Christmas

Easy Rice Krispie Chocolates Recipe Christmas

The finished chocolates were gift wrapped and delivered to friends as Christmas presents. 

Wishing a Happy Christmas to all my followers.

I'm submitting this post under the Tea Time Treats blog challenge from Lavender and Lovage blog and What Kate Baked blog who is also hosting the challenge this month.

Easy Rice Krispie Recipes hand made chocolates Christmas food edible gift ideas
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Peligonium Tea

I've been holding on to an over sized teacup and saucer I'd received as a gift from my cousin, my intention was to use it for something other than a teapot full of tea!  I took a cutting from a friends Peligonium a couple of months ago which had taken well and was in need of potting on.  I realised the cup and saucer would make a perfect plant pot, having added a hole in the bottom for drainage. How right I was.   

I think this will look wonderful when it flowers, its kept sheltered from the cold weather and has pride of place on the windowsill in the kitchen.
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Mince Pies - The Outtakes!

I know I have already shared with you my wonderful mince pies, well now I'm going to share with you the 'Outtakes'.

When I made my mince pies I also decided to top some of the with marzipan.  Now marzipan is something I really dislike, but I'd received a special request for it so though I would oblige, being in the Christmas spirit and all that.  I know you don't normally bake marzipan, and when making a Simnel Cake you would normally grill the marzipan topping.  But I gambled that the mince pies would not be in the oven all that long so they should be fine. 

As it turned out the marzipan did not burn, but it certainly didn't retain its snowflake shape, ah what a pity.  So although I'm not ashamed of them, well ok maybe a little, I'm not to proud to include a photo of what I like to call the Mince Pie Outtakes. Feel free to laugh away :)

Can you spot the mince pie (top left in the picture) with the sugar paste snowflake.  I got a little carried away with the lustre spray and decided to give the rest of the mince pie a spray too, only to realise that this made it look mouldy *eek*. I've now placed the lustre spray safely out of my reach back in the cupboard!
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Mince Pies Recipe

One of my favourite indulgences during Christmas is the traditional but humble Mince Pie.  I made my first batch in November as soon as I spotted a jar of mincemeat in the shops, yes I know I buy jars of mincemeat and don't make my own. Well I'd much rather spend my time making the pastry, which I find far more therapeutic.  One thing I can not do is to bring myself to buy a pack of mince pies from a supermarket, finest or not.  As far as I'm concerned how can you call that pastry!  

Mince Pies Recipe
Decorate Mince Pies
Enough of my waffling, here's a recipe I've been using for a few years now. I like it because the pastry always comes out light and fluffy with the right touch of crumbliness.

Mince Pies Recipe
8oz self raising flour
4oz butter
1½oz caster sugar
1 egg yolk
2-3 tbsp milk or more if required
a jar of mincemeat
dried cranberries

Using your fingertips rub the flour and butter together, then mix in the sugar and egg yolk.  Stir in enough milk to make a soft dough. Roll and cut out your pastry, once you've added your mincemeat top it off with some dried cranberries. I like to use a little milk on my pastry tops and then sprinkle with a little sugar, so the pastry has a nice sweet crunchy top.  

Depending on how thick you like your pastry this recipe should make 12 mince pies.   Place in a preheated oven 180 degrees F / Gas 4 for 15 minutes.

I decided to decorate them a little differently this time.  I'd borrowed a snowflake cutter from my friend Jo, and although this is usually used on sugar paste I gave it a go with thinly rolled pastry.  I also chose to decorate some lids with holly and berries using my holly leaf cutter.    

As you can see I had mixed results with the decorations.  Some of the snowflakes kept there shapes reasonably well, but as is the nature of pastry once cooked some lost their definition.  I'm particularly delighted with the holly toppings though, they really do look the business.  I also left some with no pastry top and chose to decorate them with various Christmas themed sugar paste shapes I'd made using some new moulds.  To finish the effect I sprayed the sugar paste with edible lustre spray, instant bling!

Mince Pies decorated with icing
Mince Pies decorated with icing

Mince Pies decorated with icing

Mince Pies decorated with icing

Mince Pies decorated with Holly
Mince Pies decorated with Holly
I'm submitting this post for the Mince Pie Re-inventing a Classic Challenge on Now and Then Delicious Blog.

I'm also submitting this post under the Tea Time Treats blog challenge from Lavender and Lovage blog and What Kate Baked blog who is also hosting the challenge this month.
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Insulating the greenhouse for Winter and Overwintering Plants

My greenhouse is unheated, so during the winter in the UK any plants inside are afforded little protection from frost. Previous years I have lost young plants, even though they were protected with fleece. I do not want to heat my greenhouse, I know this would solve my problems and it would also help come springtime with any early seeds sowing. My alternative is to insulate my greenhouse overwinter with...bubble wrap. Used by many gardeners and if it's good enough for one of my favourite Gardeners World presenters Monty Don, its good enough for me.
how to insulate greenhouse for winter
How to insulate your greenhouse for winter
How to protect your greenhouse and plants through winter without too much expense.
  • Bubble wrap or packaging you sometimes find inside parcels makes excellent insulation. It is also a great way of reusing packaging plastic. Use a strong tape to attach it to the windows. As you can see from the photo below all my windows are well covered and protected, with the exception of a few panes in the roof. 
  • You can of course buy bubble wrap which you can store to be reused each year. Although if you are a savvy gardener like myself start collecting bubble wrap through the year, making sure family and friends know of your need.
  • To keep the environment inside the greenhouse healthy during winter you should remember to ventilate your greenhouse. So make sure you don't cover the window handles. You will be checking on your plants anyway, so opening the door or window on the sunnier days is always a good idea.
how to insulate greenhouse for winter
Bubble wrapped insulated greenhouse
Plants to overwinter
Typically plants I overwinter include:- 
  • Geraniums  
  • Aeoniums
  • Young perennial cuttings
  • Sweet pea seedlings 
  • Broad bean seedlings 
  • Half-hardy plants in pots such as Scabious
how to insulate greenhouse for winter
How to insulate your greenhouse for winter

I would love to know if you have any tips for keeping your greenhouse frost-free over winter. Someone once suggested that if a heavy frost is forecast, it's worth lighting a few tea lights in the greenhouse just before you go to bed. Apparently, they keep the temperature just above zero.
how to insulate greenhouse for winter

Love gardening then please do follow my Gardening Tips and Inspiration Pinterest Board

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Remembrance Poppy Cakes

This week I made some Remembrance Poppy cakes to take into work to raise money for The Royal British Legion.   The cakes were standard fairy cakes, which I decorated with poppies I'd made from sugar paste.

Remembrance Poppy Day Cakes
Remembrance Poppy Cakes
I only took in 15 cakes as its not the biggest office and charged 50p a cake.  I raised £11 not a huge amount but I was pleased, people even continued to contribute when all the cakes had been sold.
Remembrance Poppy Day Cakes
Cake for Poppy Day
A special mention in this post for my Great Uncle, Stanley James Holloway, Army Private 4th Battalion Essex Regiment who died 3 November 1917 aged 23.  
Stanley James Holloway 1894-1917
Stanley James Holloway 1894-1917
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Dairy Diary Cherry Cupcakes

For those of you that follow my blog, you'll know that last month I blogged about the Dairy Diary and said I'd bake the Cherry Cupcakes.  Well today I have been busy baking.  You'll see from the photos that I've put my own little twist to them.  Some of them I have added not just white chocolate buttons, but also jazzy drop chocolate buttons.

Now for another twist. On some of the cakes I used my new button mould I bought from the Cake Show.  So not only are there white chocolate buttons but also white sugar paste buttons!

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Cake International and My Shopping Spree

On Friday this week, I along with two friends went to the first day of Cake International at the NEC Birmingham.  We arrived ten minutes before the show opened and boy you should of seen the queues!  A lesson learnt from last year we decided to hit the stalls first and the cake exhibits last.

So yes I did have a shopping list, and some items I can tick off the list but as predicted I deviated - yay!

So he is a list of my haul.

  • Cake Pops starter kit
  • Button moulds
  • 2 tier cup cake carrier - when I got home and removed the cellophane I found the corner was smashed, I've emailed the company so hopefully they can replace.
  • Edible glue
  • Strawberry flavouring
  • cupcake shaped cutters
  • Bow cutter
  • White rolling board
  • Set of 4 glitter
  • 5 packs of coloured sugar paste
  • Set of 3 piping nozzles
  • Black pen - edible ink
  • The Mat 
  • 12 month subscription to Cake Craft and Decoration magazine - included a bottle of silver metallic colour and a set of Christmas moulds

What a shame

There were as usual some amazing cake on display and here are a few of my favourites, sorry for the quality of the photos but it was rather busy and you could not linger at each cake long.

Amazing, such detail but must of been a nightmare to transport
These lovely cakes were in the junior class
As a keen gardener I loved this little veg patch
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Halloween Red Velvet Cakes and Ghost Meringues

If you're of a nervous disposition look away now, or be prepared to be scared silly.   OK, so you've chosen the scared silly option - good choice.  For Halloween this year I decided to make some spooky cupcakes, and for the first time I made Red Velvet cupcakes.   I used the recipe from the Eric Lanlard & Patrick Cox cookbook called Cox, Cookies & Cake published by Octopus Books.  

I confess that I'm vinegar phobic so substituted the vinegar in the recipe for lemon juice. I opted to top off the cupcakes with the vanilla butter cream frosting.   
Blood red cake mixture
Chocolatey Red Velvet Cakes
A few weeks ago when I made a Key Lime Pie I decorated it with hearts piped from melted chocolate.  I had a lot of chocolate left in the piping bag, so planning ahead I decided to make some chocolate toppers for my Halloween cupcakes.  I piped them onto baking parchment, once cooled still leaving them on the baking parchment I cut them out.  I stored them in an air tight container in the fridge.  I'm really quite pleased with how they turned out,  though you really do have to move quick when piping melted chocolate. You can not afford to stop, it has to be in one continuous movement.
Chocolate cake toppers
I thought that would be it for the decorating of my cakes, but the recipe for the Red Velvet Cupcakes left me with two egg whites to use up.  Having spotted a Halloween post on Please Do Not Feed The Animals blog, I was inspired to make some spooky meringues.  Now I admit that this did not go exactly to plan, when I piped the first two ghosts it was obvious my mixture was too loose, which you may spot on the photo.  So back into the mixing bowl for another minute or two with the electric whisk and the mixture was back on track.   I painted on the scary face using a tiny amount of black cake decorating gel.

Check out the sloppy meringue at the back!
They were transported very carefully to my aunts Halloween party, so as not to get damaged and here they are on display on my sisters special Halloween cake stand. I will definitely be making Red Velvet Cupcakes again using this recipe. I admit to being a little dubious at first when it used egg yolks not the whole eggs, but the cakes where moist, light and very tasty.
Who you gonna call?

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Dairy Diary and The Dairy Book of Home Cookery Review

I have very kindly been sent a copy of the 2012 Dairy Diary and The Dairy Book of Home Cookery to review.    I’ve had a few Dairy Diaries over the years and they always contain some lovely recipes, so I was delighted to be sent the 2012 edition.

The Dairy Diary is so much more than just a diary. You'll find recipe on each week to view page of the diary.  I have my eye on the Cherry cupcakes recipe to make during the next few weeks, so watch my blog.  If however you can not wait, you can find the recipe on the Diary Dairy website recipe page, Cherry Cupcakes 

The dairy also has some really useful guides giving you the basics into gardening, handicrafts and digital photography.   There is a special section covering the London Olympics too, with some fascinating facts about the Olympics generally and the previous London Olympics.  There were lots  "who would of thought it" being exclaimed when I read this section.

It also has a comprehensive section on calendar dates and holidays, along with the type of information you need when you have typically turned off your laptop and don’t have the internet at your finger tips. Such as: Metric conversions and cooking times, anniversaries, birthstones and flowers and much more.  There are some useful preprinted lists in the diary too, Christmas cards, Gift ideas and a practical home budgeting section.

To make sure you don’t miss those important birthdays or appointments, there is a special sheet of memorable date stickers when using the diary.   

The Dairy Diary would make a perfect gift for Christmas at only £6.99, but be warned you may have to buy two as you will want to keep one for yourself!  To find out more visit the Dairy Diary blog http://dairydiarychat.co.uk/  

The Dairy Book of Home Cookery

This recipe book contains lots of recipes along with many suggestions on how to vary a recipe, useful for cooks that are not that confident with ingredients. It’s a nice size cook book, not one of those books that takes up so much room on your worksurface there’s none left for you to spread out your ingredients. I also like the ribbon bookmark for keeping your place in the book, very useful for those times you accidental end up turning pages and loosing your spot.
The book has some great additional sections covering subjects such as food hygiene, storing food correctly and safely in the fridge, use of herbs and spices and many other helpful subjects.  As a keen gardener I liked the list of when  seasonal fruit and vegetables were available.
Here are a few of the recipes that caught my eye:-
  • Leftover Chicken Bake
  • Sausage and Apple Grills
  • Corned Beef Hash
  • Butter Whirl Biscuits

The Dairy Book of Home Cookery can be purchased for £10.49 from the Dairy Diary website.
There is currently a competition on the Dairy Diary Facebook page to win a copy of the cookbook, so what are you waiting for - Like the Dairy Diary Facebook page.

I was sent a copy of the Dairy Diary and The Dairy Book of Home Cookery for the purposes of this review, all views and opinions I give on this blog are my own.

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National Baking Week

Anyone that enjoys baking will have found it hard to escape the fact that it's National Baking Week this week.  To celebrate this event I have been busy doing some baking of my own.

Key Lime Pie
A special request from my parents for their 47th Wedding Anniversary. This is a favourite recipe courtesy of BBC Food, so if it takes your fancy here it is BBC Food Key Lime Pie

Normally I would drizzle dark chocolate artistically across the pie. However, this time I decided to practice my chocolate piping onto parchment paper. Once cooled I carefully transferred the chocolate onto the pie.  Looking at it now, I realise I should of also piped the word 'Wedding'- never mind, too late now!

Iced Buns
Inspired by The Great British Bake Off and also wanting to try my hand at baking something I had never made before, I was tempted by Iced Buns.   I followed the recipe as featured on the show.  Though time consuming, these were very easy to make and I can not begin to describe just how amazing they tasted.  

I also made Rock Buns and Cherry Buns, but they were not around long enough for me to photograph.

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