The start of a new normal

Its been a while since my last post.

That feels so much like a confession! Not being a natural writer and trying to find something vaguely interesting to write about,  is something I work hard at. Although I have found that the more time to think about something the harder it becomes to write something. Whilst having just a header can actually be more productive.

Its been an odd last few weeks. The school summer holidays have now been and well and truly gone. In the main it felt like we were all apart for the best part of 4 weeks! With the length of the school holidays it becomes almost a military exercise in precision organisation, so that we don’t pay over the odds for child care. Work holiday time, does not equal school holiday time, which has meant we spent a couple of weeks apart. It’s how it is and we just get on with it, perhaps not ideal but we make it work 😀  We almost began to forget who we were!

Then before we knew it, there was the last-minute rush to get everything together for the first day back at schools. Noah’s first day back was the easier option as he has moved up one year in the same school. His sister however,  has now started senior school! Which has been a HUGE learning curve for us all after week one. It’s meant getting a bus to school – with a bus pass! Organising her own school meals and getting herself around a huge school, roughly twice the size of her junior school. It’s been a huge thing. It feels like, just overnight she has had to grow up so quickly. From being taken to school, to getting herself there. From being cooked for at home, to preparing her own snack when she comes back from school (of course she has had some excellent tuition on that front 😀😀). She has taken it all in her stride of course and we are very proud of her.

Fancy some quick cake to celebrate and to celebrate the start of the new series of The Great British Bake Off on Channel 4 😄? Oh and the continuing twitter bake of challenges of the #gbbotwitterbakealong run by the @thebakingnanna1 and @Rob_C_Allen The weekly challenges follow the 3 bakes of the GBBO series and everyone can enter, pop over to twitter to find out more.

Preheat the oven to gas 3, 150c fan, 170c and line a small brownie tin (c24cm long, 15cm wide)

– 170g soft butter

– 160g caster sugar

– 3 eggs

– 100g ground hazelnuts

– 90g gluten free self raising flour

– 30g Cocoa

– 160ml milk

Very easily place all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and whisk (either using a stand mixer or hand held electric mixer) until fully blended and it becomes light and fluffy – about 5/6 minutes.

Pour the batter into the cake tin and bake for 25-30 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Meanwhile you can make the ganache topping.

– 150ml double cream

-130g cooking chocolate, broken into small pieces to ease melting

– 2 tablespoons of chocolate hazelnut spread

Place the chocolate pieces and chocolate spread into a glass bowl.

Heat the cream in a saucepan, stirring continually, until just before it comes to the boil. Pour the hot cream on top of the chocolate, leave for about a minute and then stir the mix until the chocolate has melted and you get a lovely, silky smooth paste, then pour this on top of the cooling cake. Allow to cool completely and for the ganache to set before removing from the tin and cutting into equal pieces.

I’ll be watching bread week on the GBBO with interest and the longing of kneading bread.

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What to say and what to bake

Inspiration comes and goes. Search for it and you can’t find it, as hard as you think and look it just come. So stop and do something completely different and all of a sudden the idea/s come flooding.

I have tried with this blog to try and both be creative with something new and also to create cakes and bakes that vaguely replicate what is already available for the ‘normal’ eaters. It’s those new and creative bakes that are the stumbling block. It’s like I need a muse, someone to bounce ideas with/off and  develop them, or just someone there! Now of course you could say that  that muse is all around me, in a way it is. Something different wouldn’t go amiss.

And yet the bakes over on my social media outlets continue. I just can’t write them all down in the blog, it would take so much time and your in-boxes would get further full, to the point of being ignored! I’m sure some do that, it’s understandable, we are bombarded everyday, all day, by the next ‘thing’, I may add to that, hence why I have scaled back recently, tried to write more, to give the reader something to read and absorb. Also whether it’s read or not, it gives me a chance to ramble on, it’s very liberating 😀

Currently just over half way through the school summer break, it’s been very different this year. Due to the amount of school holidays and the lack of the holidays given in the commercial world, we’ve all pretty much been apart, it’s how it is, no grumbles, we just get on with it.  It’s given time for reflection and appreciation. Of what and who we have around us. The house has been very quiet in recent weeks with everyone’s coming and goings, too quiet. Almost.  In order to keep busy I’ve been able to feed the creative element in me, to be able to find the missing muse.  Mind you it could just be the summer break and life, that takes priority. Cakes don’t yet pay the bills!

And so to cake…..

Gluten Free Butterscotch Mousse Cake…. not for the faint hearted!

For the cake..

Grease and line 1 x 8″ (20cm) deep cake tin and preheat the oven to gas 3, 160c, 140c fan

  • 300g soft butter
  • 80g Angel Delight Butterscotch flavour !! I have just discovered a 12 serving ‘jar’!!!
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 6 eggs
  • 240g gluten free self raising flour

Cream the butter, Angel Delight and the sugar until light and fluffy – at least 5 minutes in the stand mixer and remember to scrap the sides.

Beat in the eggs, 1 at a time. Adding a little gluten free flour with each egg if you feel you need to, in order to stop the mix from curdling. Be patient with the sponge and get the eggs beaten in well before adding the next one.

Pour the batter (adding a splash of milk if required, to get that ‘drop’ off the spoon) into the cake tin and bake low and slow for 50 – 55 minutes. Or until and inserted skewer comes out clean.

Leave to cool in the tin, before removing it and cutting it in half, horizontally.

Why the deep cake tin I hear you ask….?

Well…

For the Mousse..

  • 300g white chocolate
  • 4 large eggs, at room temperature – separated
  • 230ml lightly whipped double cream

Over a simmering pan off water, melt the white chocolate in a glass bowl, ensuring NO water gets to the chocolate. Stir regularly so as not to over heat the white chocolate, otherwise it will seize.

Lightly whip the double cream, until just as it comes together and you get a ‘trail’ left behind by the whisk.

Whisk the egg whites until double the volume and they reach stiff peaks (if you turn the bowl upside down, they’ll stay in the bow!)

NOW be careful and don’t panic!!!

The egg yolks should be at room temperature or at least ‘warm’, the white chocolate should also be warm and not set then beat the egg yolks into the white chocolate, one at a time.. The mixture will look as though it has seized and will lump together. GENTLY fold in the egg whites, a third at a time, and the mixture will slowly relax and become more ‘mousse like’.  The gently fold in the lightly whipped cream – looking even more like a mousse.  There may be some lumps in the mix, so put this through a sieve to make a smooth mousse.

To assemble;

Place one half of the cake back into the cleaned, deep cake tin. Cover this with half of the white chocolate mousse. Place the other half of the cake on top of the mousse and cover with the remaining mousse.  Place in the fridge to set for a couple of hours.

While you wait you could make the butterscotch sauce to go on top;

  • 50g butter
  • 100ml double cream
  • 80g light brown sugar

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, pour in the cream and sugar, bring to a slow simmer, and continue to simmer for about 3-4 minutes.  Remove from the heat and cool, before spreading over the set mousse cake – with in the tin, or once you have removed it prior to serving.

As this is made from raw eggs, only keep this for a couple of days at most.

 

 

 

being a parent and being proud (and a cake)

As a parent, there are many moments in the life of your child/children when you could use the phrase ‘proud parent’ moment.

Proud Parent. Is this an over used phrase? Possibly not.

We should rightly be proud of our children as they continue to reach certain milestone in their lives. Their first steps, eating their first solid foods, potty training success, starting school, their first Christmas performance and finishing school. And everything in between. This past half term we have – as have most parents with children the same age – been on an emotional rollercoaster. Noah finishes his infant part of the school and is ready to go up into ‘juniors’. His final, year-end assembly was a general highlight of his past year and sung to one of the songs from ‘The Greatest Showman’ had me in tears, I was in bits!

Noah’s sister on the other hand actually finishes primary education this year! Where the hell did those years go??!! In the final run up to the end of term we’ve had the SATs results.  Results to be proud of, bearing in mind she has dyslexia, they are pretty amazing. We have a Prom to prepare for (whether or not a primary school should have one is out for debate) and the end of year, end of school final, end of days assembly to watch. I don’t think I will be able to cope. Tissues will be at the ready, in bulk form. I then have to go on a 4 hour WebEx meeting afterwards! It’ll be something of an anti-climax.

But, who is proud of whom?

Are we proud of our children, or are we proud of ourselves for getting our children safely to this point in their lives? Should it come as such a surprise that after all the hard work, love, sweat and tears that our little bundle of joy/s has attained such giddy heights in life as to have done what they have done? We have loved and cherished every moment of there so far, short lives. We have worked hard to get them to eat properly, with a knife and fork (mostly), we have ensured that their diets are healthy and their plates have been full. We have run around the house with the potty, and cleaned up afterwards when they missed. We have taken them and picked them up from school as often as we can (as working parents we can only do so much). We have taken them to and from the various clubs.

We have in fact, put just as much time into this relationship as they have, so quite rightly, we should be just as proud of ourselves as we are of the little cherubs and their feats of success and progression.

God bless the parents – we do an amazing job and to see all our hard work burst into song on stage at the end of year play – cry for all the tea in China – because you can and you should.

And may you enjoy this little cake with friends after the morning assembly, with either a cup of coffee or a stiff G&T to calm the nerves. Dollop on a spoon of yoghurt or clotted cream and away you go.

Preheat the oven to gas 3/170c/150c fan and line and grease an 8″ deep cake tin.

For the cake;

  • 40g pistachio nuts (no shells)
  • 50g hazelnuts

Place these into a food processer and ‘blitz’ until you have a fine breadcrumb mix. No more than 2 minutes should do the trick. Remove from the bowl and put to one side.

Then;

  • 170g soft butter
  • 140g gluten free self raising flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 50g light brown sugar
  • 90g runny honey
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder

Place all the ingredients into your mixing bowl (I used a table top stand mixer) and beat them all together until light and fluffy and fully combined. Beat for a bout 4 – 5 minutes and then pour into the cake tin.  Sprinkle over the blitzed nuts on top of the cake batter and bake for about 40 – 45 minutes. Or until an inserted skewer or cake tester comes out clean.

Take out of the oven and place the cake, in its tin, onto a large plate.

Whilst the cake is in the oven, you can prepare the honey syrup;

  • 200g runny honey
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons of Rose Water

Place the 3 ingredients into a small saucepan and over a low heat, warm the liquid up. This should only take a couple of minutes, it doesn’t need to be boiling hot, just warm enough to liquefy the honey and warm enough to combine the ingredients.

Once the cake has been removed from the oven, pour over half of the honey liquor and allow this to fully soak into the cake – 20 – 30 minutes.  Then finish off with the 2nd half of the honey mix.  When pouring over the cake, make sure you pour some liquid around the edge of the cake and tin – leave no surface in-covered.

Allow the cake to then fully absorb the liquor – and fully cool –  before carefully removing the cake from the tin and serving. It’ll be quite rich, so careful on the slicing.

 

Summer Days

What a summer it has been so far! 😀

For so long you’d have to go abroad for the weather we’ve been having here in the UK. It’s been pretty amazing – although I’m sure there are those who think it’s a bad thing. There are always winners and losers.  For so long, we’ve had the strawberries, the G&T and the Pimms, just not always the weather to match. At least not for any length of time. So this is what it feels like to have a proper summer! Love it 😍

Whether or not, the fact that our national football team has been performing above expectations in the World Cup, is and will be, a matter for some debate. For me the fact is, that there is for now, something in the air. A real positive vibe, a buzz. And I can take that for as long as we’ve got it.

Long live summer and long may we have the time to enjoy the Pimms and the strawberries, in our gardens and open spaces. For long into the evening, for as long as it stays warm. It’s what a summer should be.

And to enjoy these summer days and evenings – a lovely Moist Strawberry, cream and Pimms Cupcake 😀😀🍓🍓🍹🍹

Line a 12 hole cupcake tray with cupcakes cases and preheat the oven to gas 4, 180c, 165c fan.

150g soft butter

135g caster sugar

3 eggs

140g gluten free self raising flour

30ml Pimms

milk to loosen the batter if required

Pop all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and using a hand held electric mixer and beat the lot together until light and fluffy and well combined.

Divide the batter between the 12 cases and bake for 24-28 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

120g strawberry jam

10 strawberries

30ml more Pimms

300ml double cream

20g icing sugar

12 mint leaves

You could do this next bit whilst the cupcakes are baking – carefully cut each strawberry in half from stalk to base, keeping the stalk in tact. Place them in a small breakfast bowl cut side down and pour over the Pimms. Leave this then to soak, for as long as possible. At least an hour and if you are really planned – overnight. You’ll get a lovely rich Pimms Syrup.

When you are ready to decorate, whip the cream with the icing sugar until stiff.

Scoop out the middle of the cupcakes and place around 10g of jam into the hole (more if you want to 😀), then pipe the whipped cream onto each cupcake and decorate with half a strawberry, mint leaf and a little of the liqueur left in the bowl.

Sit down and your cupcake with either a glass of Pimms or if you really want a treat, you can use the left over strawberries in a glass of prosecco or two.

 

 

 

Planning v Spontaneous

Should you plan your blog posts?

Not the most burning of questions and certainly not one to make the developed world sit up and take note. Or maybe they will? Who knows.

My fingers, poised to write. Music plays in the background, the Noah is doing I don’t know what in the garden with a stick, his sister on her phone, again and mums gone for a swim. And I’m still here thinking about what to write to enlighten the masses. Welcome by the way to all my new followers, I hope you enjoy the baking 😀

I could just go straight in with the bake and be done with the preamble, but it’s nice to read something before you get into the spirit of things.

There was a time, when I started this blog/website where I had such grand plans of topics. I actually thought I was some sort of journalist and story-teller. I had my little black book for notes and I had every intention of recounting some fantastically wise words on a weekly basis. Pffffft. There was the topic of ‘Smell’ and taking us back to memories we once had, triggered by the things we bake. Couldn’t write it, it didn’t feel like it came from me. There was the tale of meeting a celebrity or two, left free to roam amongst the general public! A friend of mine commented that ‘but anything could happen to them, they should have some sort of protection’. Then, they are just like you and I, doing their job. Great job though! That post fell by the wayside.

There is a lot to be said for planning, there is also a lot to be said for spontaneity. I’m nearly 300 words in already with this one and haven’t really got anywhere! Writing was never my forte, I have been more the creative creature in other ways. This post started out to seek thanks and get credit from those that may read my recipes, and develop them for their own use, borrow the recipes and make something from them in the commercial world. Who does that? 😉

So forgive the preamble, allow me my time to waffle. You’ll probably get more of who I am.

Now this cake is quite refreshing really and after 2 trial bakes, very light and fluffy.

Grease and line an 8” round, deep cake tin and preheat the oven to gas 3, 145c fan, 160c.

230g gluten free self raising flour

210g caster sugar

50g creamed coconut (from a block) made to 160ml liquid coconut milk and allowed to cool. I used Blue Dragon.

110ml veg oil

2 eggs

zest of 1 lime and 1 lemon

Very easily, place all the ingredients into a mixing bowl and with a hand-held electric whisk, whisk all the ingredients together until fully combined, light and fluffy. Pour into the prepared tin and bake slowly in the oven for 55 – 65 minutes, or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.

Allow to fully cool before removing from the cake tin.

For the frosting;

180g full fat cream cheese

40g very soft butter

50g icing sugar

zest of another lime, another lemon and some toasted desiccated coconut to use as decoration.

Again with your electric whisk, beat the cream cheese, butter and icing sugar together. You’ll have a lovely sheen on the mixture very quickly and then it’s ready – no more than a minute or so.

Spread the frosting on your finished, cooled cake, that is now on your cake stand and to finish, scatter the zest’s  and toasted desiccated coconut on top.

Serve and enjoy.

 

There is always hope (and cake)

As I sit and write, the sun is shining and the birds and the bees are flying around the garden.

Did we ever think we would get here? Possibly not. Yes, there were shared hopes and dreams, it’s what brings people together, it’s what makes friends. But actually being here now, in this moment? Do those hopes and dreams, without actually planning anything, shape your future? By seeing a ‘hope’ or a ‘dream’, an outcome to your life in the future, are you sub-consciously following a path you don’t know you are following? Is that destiny? Or have we programmed ourselves to seek that path that leads us inadvertently to where we want to be?

Clearly there are those that plan, that decide where they want to be and that defines them. But at what cost? There are those that can afford to get what they want (where’s the fun in that 😀?) and indeed do. Surely sub-consciously is more fun? Too many questions, too many barriers, ups and downs, too a hope/dream that is sub-consciously led. There are of course many studies into mindfulness, well-being and NLP that go into far more detail. To quote a Talking Heads song lyric (from the track ‘Once in a Lifetime’) – ‘How did I get here?’ I really don’t know. But does it really matter, I’m here now so what’s next!

Some cake,  from which came from somewhere…..

To be made in 2 stages… a brownie base and a hazelnut meringue.

Start either way around, I made the brownie first.

Preheat the oven to gas 4, 180c, 160c fan and line and grease a round 8”, deep cake tin.

300g milk chocolate (I use Callebaut)

180g butter

230g caster  sugar

3 large

1 teaspoon vanilla

100g gluten free plain flour

1 jar of hazelnut chocolate spread

Melt the chocolate, broken into small pieces, and the butter together in a glass bowl, over a saucepan of gently simmering hot water. Ensuring no water gets into the bowl. Once melted set aside to cool a little before adding the sugar and then beating in the eggs – one at a time. Beat in the vanilla and then fold in the flour. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for about 40 minutes. Leave to cool before popping in the fridge to set firm and then remove from the tin, but not before it has set firm. Trim any rough edges if required.

To make the hazelnut meringue – grease and line a 8” cake tin and preheat the oven to gas 4, 180c, 165c fan.

2 egg whites

130g caster  sugar

1/2 teaspoon white wine vinegar

75g roasted ground almonds. If you can only get whole nuts – place them on a tray and put into the oven for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven and blend/blitz using a food processor.

Whisk the egg whites until light and fluffy and then whisk in the caster sugar  and tablespoon at a time. Ensuring you whisk well between each addition of the sugar. It will become a rich shiny white once all the sugar has been added. Whisk in the wine vinegar and then fold in the ground hazelnuts. Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool, then carefully remove from the tin.

To assemble, place the brownie onto your cake stand, spread with chocolate hazelnut spread, you could leave some to drizzle over the finished cake if you wish and top with the hazelnut meringue.

Slice and serve with all your hopes and dreams.

Happy Fathers Day.

 

 

Our Cornish Tale

It’s been holiday time for Cake Towers and we’ve been loving our little retreat down in Cornwall.

Over the past few weeks, like most families, life had begun to over take us a little. Knowing that we had a holiday coming up, I guess we just kept going until we knew we would stop. But does it actually stop? Anyone with a family will know that it doesn’t really. Your surroundings may change but the washing still needs doing and little mouths still need feeding. Spending a holiday next to a beach, walking distance as well, does at least have some pay off and a change is as good as a rest.

I may have mentioned before that we are lucky enough to have two weeks of Whit half term at Noah’s school. Which makes going away on the second week, so much easier when it comes to choice, affordability and reduced crowding. We chose again this year to come to Cornwall, the venue of choice some 3 years ago when life got a little stressful to say the least and a week in The Duchy rejuvenated us as a family and bought us all back to what is important – having each other. Not that that time has been repeated, it is just as important to reconnect with each other. Too realise what each of us brings to the family unit – love.

Again we used the same holiday company, Beach Retreats, and no they aren’t perhaps cheap,  we do though get so little time together that the added expense is vastly outweighed. Booking made earlier on in the year we waited and counted down the weeks – especially the final 4 weeks. Bags packed, it was actually a bit of a rush leaving the house, but we didn’t rush the drive the south. Normally one for just getting there, we made 3 stops as for some reason check-in wasn’t until 4.30pm! Luckily there was a National Trust venue en route as well.

Arriving safely to Porth, just outside Newquay, we unloaded and made our way to the nearest Pizza Express – booked on the way down via the old inter web. Safe in the knowledge that we could all eat safely and Noah would enjoy his gluten free pizza.

That is I think the difference between eating last time we came here and now. Noah at – 4 we pretty much ate in last time we were here, now of course, Noah being 7, eating out becomes a little easier. Or should be.

At 7, Noah is great to be around when he wants to play. Over the course of the holiday we’ve spent most of it on the beach, which at Porth is fantastic. It might not be one of the biggest in North Cornwall, surfing is frowned on due to the lack of space, but by-heck we can have some fun – body boarding and building sand castles, digging deep holes and even trying to stop the tide coming in by building sand walls! Once the sea is out it’ll take you a good few minutes to get to the surf, it’s a long walk with a tired Noah.

And time stands still (ignoring the fact that the tide comes and goes). As Noah zips around the beach screaming at the sea al la King Canute, telling it to stop, whilst he runs back and forth ensuring the incoming tide doesn’t touch his toes – until that is he trips and falls in! 😀😀 . It’s a joy to watch. Then it’s back to the retreat, literally a 2 minutes walk once you’re off the beach, showered to remove the sand and then off to bed or output again for our next visit.

Our current retreat has 3 bedrooms, one en suite and a separate bathroom for the other 2 rooms, Noah and his sister Iona, were able to have a room each. Downstairs we have a utility room, another toilet, kitchen with a breakfast bar and a lounge/diner complete with a wood burner for the colder months, TV and plenty of seating. Parking is just around the corner and as the retreat actually sleeps 6, there are currently 2 parking slots allocated. On arrival Cornish milk is in the fridge and there is Cornish tea, coffee and biscuits (not gluten free) waiting to be opened. There is the obligatory welcome folder and visitors book all with helpful, local information mainly on where to eat.

Which is still a bone of contention for us. Cornwall is full of local produce, Cornwall is, I think, proud of this and rightly so, there are many local suppliers wanting your trade. There is even a Waitrose in Truro with a rather large portion of the store taken up by ‘The Cornish Shop’ sellling all things ‘Cornwall’. There are many fantastic artisan producers selling very bespoke food products (Padstow has a rather large proportion of Cornish fudge shops and is very well represented by a certain Rick Stein – plus  ‘Chough Bakery’ selling gluten free for 2018 – but it was closed when we got there). But when it comes to actual meals for children with coeliac disease, it becomes a little harder to find or even to find someone helpful. We have ended up sticking to what we know – a National pizza chain restaurant. Have we tried? Yes. Did we go out much? Probably not as much as we’d like. The feeling of being let down (on behalf of Noah) is just not worth it. Not knowing sometimes, is very hard to bear. It becomes difficult to enjoy your meal, when all Noah can have (or is willing to eat) is chips. After a while, this just gets disheartening, you begin to wonder what must be going through Noah’s mind.

We tried eating at The Heron, in a tiny village called Malpas, near Truro. Noah’s mum had just been stand up paddle boarding (well recommended) along the river Fal and it looked like a very nice place to eat. It was in fact lovely, but Noah just had chips and a hand-made burger that looked like a rather small, flat meatball. We couldn’t find a gluten free Cornish Pasty in St Ives. Oh do not get me started on St Ives! A terrible place. One cash machine (with a fee which I refuse to pay) no one seems to take contactless, its cash only or £5 minimum spend with a card! And if you’re like me (and the Queen) I do not carry cash. A very short-sighted bunch of traders, in what is a very popular place, one that we couldn’t wait to get out of! That is until we found the cafe at the top of the hill, by the car park (the one with the leisure centre in).  Brewhouse. Great service, gluten free dishes available, but Noah just wanted a drink, plus they’ll accept card payment.

We looked through the pile of places to eat locally in the retreat folder and had a look online at their menus, not really helpful when it comes to children and gluten free and when we tried contacting one to ask what they could provide for a child who couldn’t eat gluten……we are still waiting for a response after 6 days (Lusty Glaze). We are not ones to make a fuss, we are not ones to assume we are owed anything from the world because Noah has coeliac disease, but some understanding (through training) would be nice from operators. Which is why, for our final night,  we are going ….where?

Cornwall you are lovely, we could live here. But would it be spoilt if we did? Would we take our for granted? You have given us even more fond memories, ones we will remember for some time to come. We will be back soon.

Just in case you were wondering – #JamFirst 😀😀