Monday, 20 October 2014

Wooden Ladle and Cotton Napkins

I am not a great one for shopping.  I don't go in for shoes or handbags or any of the things ladies are supposed to fancy.  I love buying things for the house. 

My real passion is furniture and soft furnishings but there comes a time when you can't squeeze in another cushion let alone another bow-backed Windsor chair.  

With the rooms fully furnished, I've resorted to collecting smaller household items.  Today I treated myself to this beautiful wooden ladle and some rustic cotton napkins. 

I know, they aren't a pair of Jimmy Choo's but who needs posh shoes when you've got a gorgeous wooden ladle! 

Both ladle and napkins were purchased at Sainsbury's.   I know... Sainsbury's!

Saturday, 18 October 2014

Oat and Apricot Cookies

I did something I try NOT to do this morning...go to the supermarket on a Saturday.  We only have one full size grocery store in our town so, needless to say, it's always busy.  Saturdays are crazy busy!  

I wouldn't have done it except things were getting desperate here; no milk, no eggs, no flour, no onions or carrots, and no oats.  So off I went at the crack of sparrow fart* to do the grocery shopping.  I suppose I was lucky.  Maybe it was just too early for most people to be out on a Saturday morning but it went pretty serious trolley rage and I even got everything on my list.  Well, OK, I forgot one thing but that's not bad for me.  

I don't know why, but have you noticed oats come in bags big enough to feed horses!  These bags are enormous.  Where are you supposed to store all that? Well, I couldn't find a space for all the oats so I put as much as I could in my giant oatmeal jar and used the rest to make these....oat and apricot cookies.

Yes, the one thing I forgot was raisins or these would have been oatmeal raisin cookies.  The dried apricots make a lovely change.  All you have to do is FOLLOW THE RECIPE FOR THESE TRADITIONAL OATMEAL COOKIES and substitute chopped dried apricots for the raisins. 

And now I've realised I've forgotten something else but I refuse to go back to the supermarket for it...not on a Saturday afternoon.  

I'm going to stay here and have tea and oat and apricot cookies.  

*Crack of sparrow fart = very early in the  morning

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Carrot Tea Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting

At least once a week I bake something.  I love to bake and love sharing it with family and friends.  But as I was grating the carrots I got to one ever bakes for me.

I can't remember the last time I had a birthday cake that I didn't make myself.  Actually, I can't remember the last time I had a birthday cake.

Now, I don't want to sound like 'poor me' or anything but it was a sobering thought on which I ruminated while I licked the last of the cake batter out off the mixing bowl.

I mean, to me, baking for someone is a way of showing affection.

Making someone's favourite cookie is like saying 'I love you' only with butter and sugar...I thought as I polished off the cream cheese frosting bowl.

Then, as I lapped the last of the icing off the spatula, it occurred to me...if I didn't do the baking then I wouldn't get all the cook's perks of licking the beaters, having that first warm cookie, or tasting the first bit of cake.   

I LIKE being the one who bakes.  It's just how it's supposed to be.  Oh, I nearly forgot CLICK HERE to get the recipe for Martha Stewart's Carrot Tea Loaf with Cream Cheese Frosting.

*Did that sound like a line from Breaking Bad?  'I AM the one who bakes'!


Every once in a while you just have to do those chores you hate; clean the oven, sweep out the garage, clean the kitchen cabinets.  Today was kitchen cabinet cleaning day so I climbed up the step ladder and took down all the teapots that live on top of the cupboards and gave everything a good scrub.

Now, I knew I had a teapot or two but they seem to be multiplying up there.  I can give you tea in several different ways, for example, the Keep Calm and drink tea fashion.

Perhaps you prefer the BoHo-Chic-Flower-Power-Hippy version, complete with hand-crafted cups and saucers.

If you are more of a High Tea at Budleigh Salterton type we've got you covered. My Mum-n-Law, Maggie, bought these cups from Fielding's of Sidmouth. Andy insists on having the one with gold trim. 

The teapot that gets the most use is the little brown T-for-one pot.   That big Brown Betty should have air miles.  I bought it from a special shop in St. Charles Missouri years before I ever knew I'd be living in England.  It may be the only Brown Betty to immigrate back to Britain.  I carried it back in my suitcase when I moved here...which was no mean feat.... that teapot is MASSIVE!  Cup of tea, anyone?

P.S.  There are more but perhaps we'll save those for another day.

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Monday, 13 October 2014

Easy Oat Bread

People have funny notions about home made bread. Those who make sourdough may think using yeast is a cheat.  Those who use fresh yeast may consider using dry rapid-rise yeast a travesty.  Almost all bread bakers will say using a bread machine is unthinkable!

I had a bit of a thing about using the dough hook on my KitchenAid.  Andy gave it to me as a Christmas present and I love it...but it's a serious bit of equipment. I suppose I was a bit intimidated by the dough hook - until today!

Today I used it to make a loaf of Easy Oat Bread..easy because the machine does all the heavy work.  Here are the ingredients you will need:

1 1/4 cups room temperature milk
2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil or butter
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 cup regular porridge oats

In the bowl of the mixer, stir together the milk, yeast, sugar and 1 cup flour. Place the bowl on the mixer stand and add the rest of the flour, the oil, and the salt.  Turn the mixer on low and allow the dough hook to combine the ingredients.  Finally, add the oats and continue to mix at the lowest speed until the oats are absorbed into the bread dough.  Once all the ingredients are combined, turn the mixer up to a slightly higher speed to 'knead' the dough. Let the machine work for about 5 - 10 minutes.  The dough is ready when it springs back when gently 'prodded'.  

Place the dough into a large buttered bowl. Cover the bowl with cling film and place it in a warm place so the dough will rise.

When the dough has doubled in size,  remove it from the bowl and gently knead it for a moment to 'knock it back'.  Roll the dough into a loaf shape and put in into a buttered 8x5 inch loaf tin.   Leave the dough to double in size again.  If you like, you can brush the top of the loaf with a bit of milk, sprinkle over a few oats, and slash the top with a shape knife.  It's not necessary but it does make the bread look rather nice. 

Bake in a preheated oven (350F/180C) for about 30-35 minutes.  The loaf should sound hollow when you give it a gentle tap.  When baked, remove the bread from the tin and cool on a wire rack.   This bread is good with a rich thick soup as a rustic meal and makes wonderful toast.  

And if you don't have a big mixer with a dough hook, you can always make this recipe the old fashioned way and knead it by hand.  Anyway, we all know that's really the best way to bake heavy machinery required.  

Would you like a little whole wheat in your loaf?  Try this RECIPE for OAT BREAD instead.  

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Pear Cake from My Recipe-a-Day Diary

Recently I've developed a strange habit.  When I see a recipe I want to try, I jot it down in my strange recipe shorthand in my diary.  Most people have diaries full of social appointments...mine is full of cooking ingredients!  

This is good AND bad.  Good to have a Recipe-a-Day diary...bad because I don't know who is the original author of the recipe.  If this is your recipe, thank you for sharing it.  I am sorry I can't give you credit but let me know and I'll make amends.   Today's recipe is for Pear Cake...pure and nonsense! 

2-4 pears (depending on the size) peeled, cored, cut 1/4 inch thick slices
180 grams caster sugar
4 eggs 
150 grams plain flour
pinch of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder 
125 grams butter- melted then allowed to cool slightly 

Heat the oven to 180C/350F.   Butter a square baking tin and dust it liberally with flour.  Arrange the pear slices in the bottom of the tin so they completely cover the gaps allowed.  

Place the eggs and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric mixer until the are very pale and doubled in volume.  Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Turn the mixer down a bit and add the dry ingredients a little at a time, then slowly pour the butter down the side of the mixing bowl beating the butter into the batter.  Gently pour the batter over the pears in the baking tin.  

Bake for about 35-45 minutes, testing the cake at about 30 minutes.   The cake should spring back when lightly touched and be a light golden colour.  Remove the cake from the tin while it is still hot so the fruit will be on the top of the cake.... upside-down-cake style.  

You can serve this with custard or ice cream or just a little dusting of icing sugar.  I just had a chunk of it plain, warm from the oven!  

*A special thank you to Arthur for giving me these lovely pears from his allotment.  They were juicy and delicious.