Thursday, 27 February 2014

Andy's All-Time Favourite Apple Cake

Andy isn't big on fluffy, frosted cakes.  I am.  He likes simple, traditional cakes like Victoria Sponge and things with apples baked in them.  It's a sad fact that those who do the baking usually pick what gets baked.



So, in the interest of fairness, I thought I bake Andy's All-Time FAVOURITE apple cake.   So I crawled back to the furthest reaches of the kitchen cupboard to dig out the seldom used bundt pan.  We all have them; pots, pans, kitchen implements that spend most of the time unloved and under utilised.



But I digress, back to baking this cake.  I found this recipe at Martha Stewart's website.  I am a BIG Martha fan and after this cake I hope you will be too!



Just CLICK HERE to find Martha's Apple Spice Cake Recipe and you will soon be baking the cake that is practically EVERY man's dream.  



I think I can sacrifice the fluffy frosting, just for today.  

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Fabulous London Now and Then Photos

The Museum of London had 'morphed' some of their old photographs of London with a modern view.  The results are fascinating and well worth a look.



Click HERE to see more brilliant NOW and THEN Photos

A Few of My Favourite Things - Pencils and Bull Dog Clips

In a previous life I was an Accountant.  I suppose this accounts for my delight in certain forms of stationery.  I love thick, good quality envelopes, expensive fountain pens, and bull dog clips.


If you want to make me squeal with delight, present me with a box of bull dog clips in various sizes.


A box of giant fold-back clips was a most welcome gift from Andy, as was this spiffy pencil sharpener.  It's just like the ones I remember from school!


It was another gift from our friend, Julian, and in constant use during Tax Time.   Thanks, Julian!


I also love these paint-free pencils, perfect for gnawing when you need to concentrate on a tricky problem.   It's the simple things, and stationery, that makes for a happy life!  

Monday, 24 February 2014

Springing to Life

Have you noticed, it will be bleak and barren one day and the next day there are vibrant signs of life?  Take this camellia for example....


Just a few days ago, this was a tight bud.  I think it exploded into full bloom overnight.


The smallest daffodils are opening, too.


This is the first muscari to peak it's head up out of the ground.  I love these little grape hyacinths.  Sometimes it's tiniest flower that pack the biggest punch.


Even this fuchsia is in bud which is a really bad idea.  I suppose it's tired of the grim weather, too.  


The flowers aren't the only things that have leaped into action.  The weeds are coming on strong, too.  I suppose with the first flowers of spring comes the first weeding of the borders.  

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Cubed Bread Pudding or Wonky Bread Pudding

We bake our own bread, which means we slice our own bread.  To be honest, I am not very good at the slicing part so we end up with lots of wonky bits and heal end pieces.  


These bits get cubed up and put into the freezer to make croutons or bread crumbs.  At two loaves of bread a week, these can accumulate at an alarming rate into a small crouton mountain, filling a whole drawer of the freezer.  


As much as I love croutons, we were never going to eat THIS many, so I decided there was nothing for it but to make a bread pudding.  I Googled 'cubed bread pudding' and THIS RECIPE popped up.  It looked delicious but it made a massive bread pudding, enough for 10 people!  


So I tinkered around a bit and came up with this recipe for a slightly smaller cubed bread pudding:

4 cups of cubed bread
1/2 cup raisins
2 eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla essence
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon - to suit your taste
1 cup milk
1 cup single cream
2 Tablespoons melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350F/170C.  Butter a baking dish or a square baking tin. 
Mix the cubed bread and raisins and place them into the prepared baking dish.

With an electric whisk, beat the eggs and sugar together for about 4-5 minutes, until they become pale in colour and fluffy.  Add the vanilla, cinnamon, milk and cream and stir to combine. 

Pour the custard mixture over the cubed bread, pressing the bread down with a spoon.  You want each little cube to absorb some of the custard mix so leave the pudding to rest for a few minutes before baking it for about 30 minutes.

  
The pudding had been baking for about 30 minutes before I realised I'd forgotten to add the melted butter to the custard mix.  Drat!  I poured the melted butter over the top of the partially baked pudding, then sprinkled 1 tablespoon of sugar over the pudding and returned it to the oven to finish baking.


Bake the butter-sugar topped pudding for an additional 10 minutes or so, until the custard is JUST set. The pudding is done when you can press down with a spoon and no custard oozes out.  Serve while still warm.  Some folks like to add a bit of ice cream or pouring cream but I like mine just as it is, with it's crunchy, buttery topping still crisp from the oven.

Click HERE if you would like to see a video on making a Bread Pudding from the Joy of Baking.

Thursday, 20 February 2014

Garden Centre Retail Therapy

It's been a hard winter.  I know, I don't need to tell you that.  You already know.  If you live in Britain you've probably been flooded out and battered by the gale force winds.  If you are in the States you've probably been in a blizzard and a deep freeze.  This winter has been harsh no matter where you live. 


We've been doing all we can to help the little birds and mammals who have visited our garden through the brutal weather.   I can't tell you how many pounds of sunflower seeds we've gotten through.


I don't know how much longer the bird feeders will hold up to the battering winds.  One feeder has already given up the ghost.  It was time to replenish our supplies so I made a quick trip to the local garden centre.


You who know me well will say I am frugal.  Those who know me really well will say I am parsimonious, but there is nothing like a trip to the garden centre to loosen the purse strings.


I really only meant to buy bird seed.....


Oh well, I suppose there isn't anything wrong with a little bit of retail therapy!


Sunday, 16 February 2014

Have Some Madeira, My Dear!

When I first moved to Britain I used to spend hours in the Supermarkets just looking at all the different food, comparing and contrasting it to what we had in the States.  There was one cake that puzzled me, Madeira cake.  


Madeira is a fortified wine, but this cake doesn't have wine in it.  Did that mean you were supposed to eat this cake while drinking Madeira?  No, that wasn't right either.  


Then one day, a Madeira cake was served to me for afternoon tea and the light bulb switched on!  Pound cake!  Madeira cake is very similar to what Americans call Pound cake. 

 

I've never made Madeira cake, until today.  I used NIGELLA LAWSON'S MADEIRA CAKE RECIPE  and I was very pleased with the results. 


Now I have a new problem,  every time I type the words 'Madeira Cake' I think of this song....HAVE SOME MADEIRA MY DEAR ! 

You can get Nigella's recipe by clicking HERE

Friday, 14 February 2014

Cinnamon and Brown Sugar Cookies

This is an impulse post.  I didn't anticipate baking anything today and I certainly didn't plan to blog today.  I saw this recipe whizz past me on Twitter and it looked too good not to give it a go.



My photos don't do these lovely cookies justice.  They are delicious, rather like a ginger cookie but spiced with cinnamon instead.  Best of all, you will probably have all the ingredients you need to bake them in your store cupboard already!

2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 Tablespoons ground cinnamon
1 cup butter - room temperature (you can also use margarine)
1 1/2 cups soft brown sugar
2 eggs - room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla 



Preheat the oven to 180C/350F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium size bowl stir together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, and salt. Set this to one side.

In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar.   You can use a mixer if you like, but I did it by hand.   Beat in the vanilla and eggs. 

Gradually add the flour mixture to the creamed ingredients, stirring well to combine.  

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour.  




Using a small ice cream scoop or a tablespoon, make small balls of dough and place them on the baking tray.  Leave an inch or so between the balls of dough.  The cookies will spread when baking.

Bake for about 10 -12 minutes or until the cookies are set.  Let them cool and firm up a bit before removing them from the baking paper.  Make a cup of tea and enjoy!  Store any left over cookies in an airtight container. These are a great impulse bake, if I do say so myself. 

For the original recipe, please visit ROMANIAN MUM BLOG .

Friday, 7 February 2014

Triple Chocolate Loaf Cake

I have a new obsession, loaf cakes!  It started when a friend on Facebook shared a recipe for APPLE CINNAMON LOAF CAKE .  It was SO good we ate it all in less than 24 hours.  This inspired me to go looking for more loaf cake recipes and triple chocolate loaf cake seemed like a good place to start.



I confess, I tweaked the original recipe a bit.  It only used cocoa powder but hey, what harm can a few chocolate chips do?  

Here are the ingredients you will need:

2/3 cup butter or Stork margarine
1 cup fine white sugar
1/2 cup plain yogurt
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 1/4 cup plain flour*
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 cup chocolate chips (you choose the flavours you like)

Begin by buttering a 9x5 inch loaf pan and lining it with baking paper. Pre-heat the oven to 350F or 175F.  

With an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar together until they are light and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at time, and beat until they are well incorporated.  Beat in the yogurt and vanilla.  

In a separate bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, and cocoa.  Add these dry ingredients to the creamed ingredients and stir to combine.  


Pour half of the batter into the loaf pan, spreading it evenly to the edges of the pan and sprinkle over half of the chocolate chips.  Pour the remaining cake batter into the pan and top with the remaining chocolate chips.  



Bake for about 45 - 50 minutes or until the cake is ALMOST completely set. Remember, DO NOT OVER BAKE this cake or the chocolate will taste bitter. (The original recipe says 'it will look like Lava Cake in the centre')   


Let the cake cool in the loaf tin for about 20 minutes before removing it from the pan.   Yeah, that's what the recipe says, but I was having a warm slice of this fudgy loaf cake and a cup of tea before 20 minutes was up!  

*Here's a little tip... to give your cakes a lighter texture, replace a heaping tablespoon of the flour with an equal amount of cornflour (cornstarch).   


Sunday, 2 February 2014

Apple Cinnamon Loaf Cake

When I think of cake, I think of multiple layers of sponge sandwiched together with dollops of rich, creamy icing.  I like a little cake with my frosting, so I don't usually make a simple, naked, loaf cake but when a friend posted this recipe on Facebook I knew I had to try it!



Most Sunday afternoons we visit Maggie, my mum-n-law.  Maggie loves cake almost as much as I do.  I use this as an excuse to bake a cake for Sunday afternoon tea and this was the cake of the day, Apple Cinnamon Loaf Cake.



This lovely little cake requires only basic store cupboard ingredients and just one apple. I used a Golden Delicious apple but any variety will do.
  
 

The batter comes together in next to no time and there's no fussing with frosting!  (I can't believe I typed that!)  



Click HERE for the recipe .... one more thing, it took about 45 minutes for my cake to bake.  Your cake may require a little more or a little less time.  



And unlike those multi-layered, frosting filled, mile high cakes you can wrap this in parchment paper and tie it up with a bow!   Have cake...will travel.


PS:  What a great surprise!  This recipe has been featured on FOODIES 100 Ten at Ten!  Thanks to Foodies 100 and that great blogger, CAKEYBOI .