White chocolate mini egg rocky road

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Hope you’re all having a great Easter weekend! I had planned to share a giant hot cross bun with you today, but I had a baking disaster. It was burnt on top and raw in the middle. I was gutted! Oh well, these things happen in the kitchen from time to time I guess. It’s just frustrating at the time!

So as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before, my boys are mad for rocky road and I’ve wanted to try a white chocolate version for a while now. I seem to stockpile packets of mini eggs like a crazy woman as soon as they go on offer in the shops – I have a bit of a weakness for them. I think it’s because they remind me of childhood – while I’m on the subject, is it me or does there seem to be a lot less eggs in those bags these days??

Wishing you all a very happy Easter :-) xxx

White chocolate Rocky road bites

350g white chocolate
50g butter
200g shortbread biscuits, bashed into small chunks
50g marshmallows
100g bag of Cadbury’s mini eggs (keep a few aside for decoration)

In a medium pan, slowly melt 200g of the chocolate and butter. Once the mixture has melted and is smooth, leave to cool very slightly for a couple of minutes before stirring in the shortbread chunks, marshmallows and mini eggs. Pour into a lined 20cm tin and smooth down as best as you can. Melt the remaining 150g of the chocolate and pour over the top. Scatter with mini eggs (pressing down so they will stick) and chill for an hour or two before cutting.

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The rocky road to temptation...

Sultana, apricot & honey flapjacks

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Flapjacks are something that my boys often ask me to make for them. They usually prefer them plain, but this time I’m hoping this fruity version will meet with their approval. They’ve been spending most of the Easter holidays out playing football, so they need some hearty snacks to keep their strength up!

Apricot, sultana & honey flapjacks

175g butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
250g rolled oats
50g sultanas
50g chopped apricots

Grease and line a 20cm square tin. Preheat the oven to 180C.

Melt the butter, vanilla and honey in a large pan. When everything is melted together, tip in the oats and dried fruit and mix together.
Pour into the tin and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Leave until cold before cutting into squares.

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Orange, cranberry & white chocolate hot cross buns

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I do love a hot cross bun. I’m certainly not against buying them from the supermarket but I do enjoy making my own at Easter time. I’ve tried lots of recipes over the years but this one adpated from Paul Hollywood’s “How to Bake” is the best I’ve tried.

There are a lot of stages to this recipe, but believe me it’s worth it the end!

Orange, cranberry & white chocolate hot cross buns
Makes 12

500g strong white flour
10g fast action yeast
10g salt
75g sugar
120ml warm milk
120ml cool water
2 medium eggs, beaten
40g soft unsalted butter<em
Finely grated zest of two oranges

150g dried cranberries
100g white chocolate chunks

Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt, sugar and yeast to the bowl, keeping the salt and yeast separate. Add the warm milk, soft butter, eggs and half the water. Mix the ingredients together until you have a soft dough. If it is too dry, add the remaining water slowly until you have a soft, but not soggy, dough. Knead for 5 mins in a mixer or 10 minutes by hand or until the dough is very smooth and bouncy.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave to prove in a warmish place for 1-2 hours or until the dough is doubled in size.

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Once the dough is ready, turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Lightly flatten it out a little and tip the orange zest, cranberries and white chocolate chunks on top. Gently work them into the dough until they are all evenly incorporated.
Place this chocolate and fruity dough back into the bowl and leave for one hour until risen in size again. </em

Divide the dough into twelve equal portions. Mine weighed 75g each. Roll each piece of dough into balls and place fairly close together on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover and leave to prove for 45-60 minutes until well risen and at least doubled in size.

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For the crosses, mix 75g plain flour and 75-100ml water together until you have a smooth paste that isn’t too runny. Using a piping bag fitted with a small nozzle, pipe crosses on the buns. I’m sure your crosses will be a lot neater than mine – my bag burst! What a mess!

Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. I glazed my buns with apricot glaze for a shiny finish. Enjoy!

My notes: If cranberries and white chocolate isn’t your thing, you can substitute with any other dried fruit of your choice.

Why two rising times? Is it necessary? It may be a pain, but in my experience I’ve found that adding the dried fruit and zest in the first stage rapidly slows down the yeast growth. Adding the fruit/zest/spices after a first rise will give you softer, fluffier buns! Your patience will be rewarded ;-)

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Linked up to recipe of the week at A Mummy Too

Blueberry & White Chocolate Crumble Muffins

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While I was clearing out my fridge this afternoon (a dreaded task!) I found a little punnet of blueberries I had forgotten all about, so I decided to make some muffins. I love Dorie Greenspan’s orange blueberry muffins, but today I fancied doing something a little bit different. This recipe is based on Sue Lawrence’s mini blueberry crumble muffins. They are very light, fluffy and the crumble topping adds a lovely buttery crunch.

Blueberry & white chocolate crumble muffins
Adapted from Sue Lawrence’s Book of Baking
Makes 10

100g soft butter
100g light brown sugar
1 large egg
150g self raising flour
60ml buttermilk
1/2 tsp cinnamon
120g blueberries
100g white chocolate chips

FOR THE CRUMBLE TOPPING

50g plain flour
25g demerara sugar
25g soft butter

Place all the crumble ingredients in a bowl and rub together with your fingers until you have a crumble. Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a muffin tin with muffin cases.

Cream the butter and sugar together then beat in the egg. Very lightly stir in the flour, cinnamon, buttermilk, blueberries and white chocolate chips. Do not overmix.

Fill muffin cases with the mixture, filling no more than two-thirds full. Place some of the crumble topping on top, gently pressing down.  Bake for 20-25 minutes until risen and golden.

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Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey’s Buttercream

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I don’t tend to make many cupcakes these days but since I was going to a St. Patrick’s Day party this weekend I thought it would be a perfect excuse to bake a batch of these beauties. I make Nigella Lawson’s chocolate Guinness cake at least once a year. It is one of my all time favourites – I’m no Guinness drinker but I absolutely love the flavour it imparts into this dark, damp cake. It’s not as rich as you would think – it’s actually surprisingly light and so, so moist. Even if you don’t like the idea of beer in a cake, I would advise you to give it a go – you’ll be pleasantly surprised!

Chocolate Guinness Cupcakes
Adapted From Nigella Lawson “Feast”

250ml Guinness
250g butter
75g cocoa powder
400g caster sugar
2 medium eggs
150ml sour cream
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
275g plain flour
2 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas mark 4.
Line two muffin/cupcake trays with cupcake cases.

Melt the Guinness and butter together in a large saucepan. When the butter has melted, whisk in the cocoa powder and sugar.

In a jug, beat together the sour cream, eggs and vanilla. Pour this into the Guinness mixture and stir. Finally, sift together the flour and bicarbonate of soda and gradually whisk into the pan. I find if you chuck in all the flour at once you end up with a lumpy mixture that takes forever to smooth out!

Pour the mixture into a large jug (much easier for filling the cupcake cases) and fill the cases no more than two thirds full. The batter will be runnier than a normal cupcake batter. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until the cupcakes are well risen.

Bailey’s Irish Cream Buttercream (Will be enough to ice your 24 cupcakes)

250g soft butter
500g Icing sugar
A good splash of Bailey’s

Simply place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix really well on high speed (preferably using a mixer) for 7-10 minutes or until very light and mousse like in texture. Taste and add more Bailey’s if you think it needs it.

Happy St Patrick’s Day!

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Meal Planning Monday 17th-23 March

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Apologies for starting this meal planner
then losing track after only one week, we have had so much stuff going on all productivity and planning went out the window!

But this week I’m determined to get back on track. This week is all about using up food I have in the freezer and storecupboard, we are on a very limited budget just now and I need to stay away from the lure of the supermarket!

So without further ado –

Monday – Sausages, mash & cauliflower cheese

Tuesday – Fish & chips

Wednesday – Chipotle pulled pork buns

Thursday – Chicken enchiladas

Friday – Macaroni cheese

Saturday – Pork chops in cider and mustard sauce

Sunday – Roast chicken with Stuffing, parsnips, carrots mash and gravy

I’m looking forward to this week!

If you’re looking for dinner inspiration have a nosey over at At Home With Mrs M :-)

Mini Toads in the hole

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Hello! I know I’ve been quiet lately….truth be told I’ve been a little blue lately :-/ Somehow I lost my cooking mojo along the way but I’m pleased to say I’m slowly getting it back :-)

Sometimes life gets us down doesn’t it? It feels like once you finally feel like you’re getting somewhere, you’re thrown another curveball. They may all be small problems compared to what an awful lot of people are going through in this world, but all those little things tend to pile up on top of eachother until you feel you can’t take much more. But that’s life and we battle on. Sometimes you just need to have a little faith that
things will get better. Because they usually do :-)

So I’m relieved I’m starting to feel like cooking again because a little kitchen therapy does wonders for the soul. I find pottering around in the kitchen very relaxing. The order of the day here was comfort food. And if you were to ask my boys what their definition of comfort food was they would undoubtedly say sausages, Yorkshire pudding and gravy.

Since it was just myself and my boys tonight, I decided to make some  mini toad in the holes. They were devoured in minutes!

Mini Toads in the Hole
Makes around 7-8 mini toads

Preheat the oven to 230C. Pour a scant 1/2 tsp oil in a muffin tray. Place in the oven and heat until smoking hot.

Measure out one small cup (like a child’s drinking cup) flour and one small cup of milk. Place in a bowl and add 2 eggs and a pinch of salt. Whisk together well. Set aside.

Take your sausages (I used little chipolatas) and brown them in a pan. This step is optional – it’s not necessary but gives the sausages a better colour. I can’t not do it – I hate peely-wally looking sausages! But please – you can skip this part if you’re in a hurry/can’t be bothered

When the oil is smoking, carefully remove the tray from the oven. Pour the batter half way up each cup and pop in a sausage (or two if they are very small.)

Cook for 10-15 minutes or until very well risen and golden.

Creative Eclairs review plus interview with Ruth Clemens

Are you ready to go on a blog hop? It’s ok, I didn’t know what it meant either! A few weeks ago, along with a few other bloggers, I was asked to take part in a blog hop to celebrate the launch of Ruth Clemens new book Creative Eclairs. I said absolutely! So I have a treat in store for you lovely readers today – an interview with the lovely Ruth herself! I’ll also be reviewing her brand new book “Creative Eclairs” which is due for release in April 2014. wpid-20140303_4.jpg I’m quite a big fan of Ruth – I’ve admired her ever since I watched her on the first series of The Great British Bake off Ruth went all the way to the final (although you probably don’t need me to tell you that!) Her website The Pink Whisk has been a real lifesaver for me on many an occasion – her clear and detailed instructions work every single time. Since the first bake off in 2010, Ruth has gone on to write four books and manage her very successful website. She is Mum of two boys – the same as myself! image

So without further ado, I give you, the lovely Ruth Clemens!
Hello Ruth! So lovely to have you here :-)

When did you first take an interest in baking and what was the first thing you ever baked? Gosh, I don’t know what the first thing I ever baked was! I suppose I was always helping Mum bake, cakes, biscuits, flashbacks those kind of thing we’d eat for after tea or as a snack after school – there was always something homebaked in the tin.

Where did you first hear about The Great British Bake Off and what made you apply?
I saw an advert in a magazine that was looking for keen home bakers. Even taking notice of an advert like that is completely out of character for me but I had finished my job a couple of months earlier to help organise my husbands business. I had organised it all (the children, the house and the business) to within an inch of it’s life and I had a fair bit of time on my hands so I was definitely ready for a new challenge and that advert was just the thing.

What are your most memorable memories from baking in the tent? And how did it feel to become a finalist?
The most memorable moments are the absolute laugh we had – contestants all together. I have never laughed or had so much fun in my life, it was a huge adventure for all of us. I met some brilliant friends through taking part, we visited amazing places and we spent the weekend baking too, what could be better? I was hugely surprised to end up in the final I seriously never thought I would get that far, I loved every minute of it.

Watching you on GBBO made me wish I had your organisation skills! What tips/advice would you offer to fellow busy working mums trying to prepare good and nutritious food for their family?
Haha thank you! In my head those organisational skills are in fact my control freak tendencies which can be difficult to live with (just ask my boys)! It’s really boring but honestly meal planning for the week ahead saves time and money, buying all the things you need for them on the weekly shop plus it saves on the endless “Mum…what’s for tea?” questioning, they just go and look at the plan in the kitchen! It saves a huge amount of time too, time that can be spent doing much more fun things.

What are your storecupboard staples? And what are your top three, couldn’t be without them pieces of baking equipment?

Storecupboard staples would be flours and sugars – caster and light brown. I also like to have cocoa powder, syrup and a selection of chocolate (not least so I can raid it when absolutely necessary) The three things I couldn’t live without in the kitchen are digital scales, oven thermometer and silicone spatulas.

You have so many lovely recipes on your site. What’s your all time favourite?
That’s a difficult question! There’s lots that I use time and time again, chocolate frosted traybake, flapjack, scones, chocolate orange cake, my chocolate cake recipe, can you tell I’m indecisive? The blog only really started because I wanted somewhere to record my recipes where I wouldn’t go losing them and now it’s completely taken over. I suppose my all time favourite would be vanilla slices, I’m rather partial to one or two of those!

Since the bake off in 2010 you’ve written three very successful books – busy girl’s guide to cake decorating, The Pink Whisk guide to cake making, The Pink Whisk guide to breadmaking and now Creative Eclairs. You also run a fantastic website – you’ve been very busy! Any plans for the future?
<em>Thank you! I’ve never had a future plan, sounds crazy I know either that or foolish. I just like to go along with the opportunities at the time and I’ve been hugely lucky to have had some great ones. Who knows what this year will hold, hopefully it’ll be just as exciting as the past few but if not I’ll still be baking away, that’s what I really love doing, anything else is just a bonus.

A huge thank you Ruth for the interview! xx Now onto the new book…. I’m going to start by admitting something. I am RUBBISH at choux pastry. I have never been able to get it right first time. I have no idea why. I have a memory of myself, age 15, in my Gran’s kitchen standing over the cooker attempting to make choux pastry. And becoming more and more exasperated and angry that I couldn’t do it. I finally admitted defeat. To this day I still have a “thing” about it – I made profiteroles last year but it took me four attempts to get them right!

So when I recieved a copy of Ruth’s new book (available for pre-order right here) I saw it as a great opportunity to practice choux. What I love about this book (as is also the case with all Ruth’s books and her website) is that you have step by step photographs for each stage so you know what things are supposed to look like – very useful!

There really is a huge variety of eclairs here – something for absolutely everyone. The book is broken down into five chapters – How to Choux, Fruit Fantastique, Ooh La La, Chocolat!, Choux Creations and How to decorate. Ruth’s sugarcraft skills and attention to detail really shine through!

I love the look of these apple pie eclairs! Very cute! image
I think my favourite chapter has to be Ooh La La, Chocolat which has the most decadent, delicious looking eclairs I think I’ve ever seen! The book is filled with so much deliciousness I was having a hard time deciding what to try, so I asked my hubby to choose. Mr T didn’t take long to decide – raspberry ripple! image Given my previous attempts at choux pastry, I wasn’t confident my eclairs would look anything like the gorgeous picture above but I was willing to give it a go! And guess what?….. Success! Ok they may not be as neat as Ruth’s, but I was over the moon that I actually made eclairs! image They were absolutely scrummy and didn’t last five minutes in our house! Ruth you have certainly inspired me to try more flavours and varieties. Now I know choux pastry isn’t so difficult after all. image Thank you Ruth! You’ll find details of all the other blogs taking part in the blog hop right here :-)

Pancakes with blueberry & orange sauce

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With tomorrow being Pancake Day/Shrove Tuesday, I thought I’d share this very quick and easy pancake sauce recipe with you – to be honest it’s hardly a recipe but it’s one of my favourite things to pour over a stack of freshly made pancakes. I’m also very partial to pancakes American style with wafer thin streaky bacon and maple syrup.

Or Nutella and strawberries…

Or golden syrup and bananas (I’ve loved this particular combination since I was little. I actually had this on my porridge this morning!)

What’s your favourite pancake filling/topping?

Find my very own pancake recipe right here – they are the thick, fluffy American style. We do make the traditional thin crepes now and again (my boys take great delight in helping me flip them – carefully!) but these are the pancakes we make nearly every weekend. Definitely not just for Pancake Day!

Blueberry & Orange Sauce
Makes enough for two
100g blueberries
Zest and juice of half a large orange
75g Icing sugar

Simply place all the ingredients in a saucepan and simmer until thickened into a luscious sauce.

Enjoy!

Meal Planning Monday 24th February

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Ok, I know it’s not Monday! I had planned to blog this yesterday but I was busy running around getting organised for my son’s Birthday today..then it was home from school, dinner, homework, baths and The Walking Dead. Everything in our house stops for The Walking Dead! I love it.

So this is my attempt at some sort of a menu plan, lately I’ve been been finding myself in a recurring situation… scouring the Co-op at 4.30pm wondering what on earth to make for dinner. This often leads to me picking not-so-healthy choices, like chilled pizzas or *embarrassed to admit* takeaway. That’s fine on the weekend when you aren’t in the mood to cook, but certainly not ideal on a week night. We simply can not afford to keep going on like this. And since I own well over 100 cookbooks and countless food magazines, I really have no excuse for my laziness. I’ve lost my cooking mojo lately and I need to get it back!

So in an attempt to clear out my storecupboard and use up half packets,here is my first weekly menu plan!

Tuesday
We are waiting for the Birthday boy to decide what he would like! He can’t make his mind up.

Wednesday
Beef Rendang, rice & flatbreads

Thursday
Creamy chicken with Orzo

Friday
I work on a Friday evening so it always has to be something quick and easy. I’m thinking sausages, mash & onion gravy.

Saturday
Not quite sure what’s happening Saturday yet, Birthday boy might be having a sleepover so I may do home made pizza.

Sunday
Roast chicken Dinner

Puddings
Nigella’s brownie bowls with ice cream. It will be a perfect excuse to use my new Wilton pudding bowl tin, I bought it in TK Maxx for only ¬£4! Bargain!

If you are also badly in need to some meal inspiration or would like to join in with meal planning Monday, do go and check out At Home with Mrs M