Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Sad News

Today I have lost a good friend. You all knew her under her blogging name of Rosie from “Baking Cakes Galore”, her real name was Jules. I received the sad news this morning from her husband to say that Jules had passed away this morning in hospital. They believe it was a heart attack. I cannot express the sadness I am feeling right now and I know that this will be felt by all of you who had come to know her as I did.

I first met Jules on the original Nigella forum and we instantly hit it off. We had so many things in common. One of which being our love of cook books leading to an Amazon addiction, we would refer to each other as Amazon partners in crime. We would spend many hours chatting on messenger and we found great comfort in each other. She helped me in my low times (especially through my loss of Ollie last year) and I would be there for her in times of need especially as she became more house bound due to ill health.

Jules had a huge heart and a lot to give to everyone. She was my inspiration to start my own blog and would always be a source of encouragement and praise. Together we ran “Sweet and Simple Bakes”. Her ideas and dedication to S&SB further demonstrated her love of baking and enjoyment she had in helping others.

I am really going to miss my dear friend and right now cannot comprehend not being able to chat to her about the latest cookbook to be released and what will be the first recipe to try from it. Knowing how much she loved to bake and blog it breaks my heart to think she was not able to do this these past few months due to her worsening health and even more so how she couldn’t wait to get back to baking/blogging. I know I am not the only one that will miss seeing her beautiful bakes and reading her wonderful posts.

Jules will be truly missed by me and all who had been touched by her warmth and friendship. My heart goes out to Jules’s equally wonderful husband who I know was always there for her.

Rest in peace Jules, thank you for being you, always being there for me and most of all being a good friend.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Friday night = Spaghetti alla carbonara, voddy & tonic and Lost, after a long but lovely day of baking for a family gathering tomorrow. I’m supposed to be counting points but at times you need comfort and nothing is more comforting than a plateful of spaghetti carbonara, I swear I could eat this every night! I’ve tried a few versions of carbonara but this recipe by Nigella Lawson wins hands down, it’s absolutely divine! I halved the recipe as I felt the quantities were too much for just hubby and me (I can be greedy but Nigella is known for her huge portions). Normally I would use dried pasta but hubby suggested we try out the fresh spaghetti pasta and I have to say it worked wonderfully, delivering what seemed to be a creamier finished dish. If it’s comfort food in a hurry that you’re craving, look no further, I can guarantee you will want to eat this every night too!

Spaghetti alla Carbonara

Serves 2

250g spaghetti, dried or fresh
275g pancetta or lardons
1 tsp olive oil
30ml dry white wine or vermouth
2 eggs
30g Parmesan, freshly grated
Black pepper
30 to 50ml double cream
Freshly grated nutmeg

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil for the pasta. Fry the pancetta cubes in the oil until crispy but not crunchy. Chuck over them the white wine or vermouth and let it bubble away so that, after a few minutes, you have a small amount of salty winey syrup left. Take the pan off the heat.

In a bowl, beat together the eggs, Parmesan, cream and some pepper. Cook the pasta more or less according to the packet instructions. Put the other pan, the one with the bacon cubes, on the heat and add the drained pasta, tossing well to coat with the syrupy pancetta. Take the pan off the heat again and add the eggs and cheese mixture, swiftly tossing everything to mix. Grind over some more pepper and grate over the nutmeg. Sprinkle with more grated parmesan.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Banana Breakfast Ring

Looking for another recipe to use up those ripe bananas? Look no further! You have to try this Banana Breakfast Ring from Nigella Lawson’s book Feast. This recipe couldn’t be more easy and quick; all you need is a bowl and fork or for more ease a mixer (I used my trusty and beloved kitchenaid). This plain pale cake makes for the perfect breakfast, especially eaten whilst still warm with some maple syrup drizzled over or smeared with lashings of nutella.

Banana Breakfast Ring

450g (3 medium) bananas
60ml corn oil or other oil
3 eggs
zest and juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp real vanilla extract
200g caster sugar
325g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda

Preheat the oven to 180C and oil a 24cm, 1.5 litre ring mould. (I used my silicone Bundt pan)
Mash the bananas, and add the oil, eggs, lemon juice and zest, vanilla and sugar. Whisk everything together and then fold in the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda. Pour into the oiled tin and bake for 40 minutes. Let the ring sit for about 5-10 minutes before turning it out.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Apple Pie

I haven’t made an Apple Pie in yonks and thought it was high time I did, at the same time get to use my new Tala Pie Dish. I bought some Bramley apples a few weeks back which needed to be used pronto, so apple pie it was to be! The recipe for this actually came with the pie dish and seemed very easy and straight-forward, plus any recipe that asks for ready-made pastry gets my vote, I like the simple life sometimes. This pie really was a doddle to make, the only part which took some effort was rolling out the pastry (next time I am getting ready-rolled) but the rest was child’s play. It turned out great and I was really impressed with my new tin with the sliding arm for easy food release, with a clean cut. I couldn’t help and get a tad artistic and decorate the top with pastry letters. This apple pie is full of flavour and is best served with hot creamy custard!

Apple Pie

Serves 6
22cm dia-2.5cm deep pie dish

2-3 cooking apples, peeled, cored, and sliced 5mm thick
2-4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
500g shortcrust pastry
25g butter, cut into pieces
egg white or 1 tbsp cream
sugar, for sprinkling

Preheat oven to 200oC/180oC/gas 6. Butter the pie dish. Toss the apples in the sugar and cinnamon. Roll the pastry into two 30cm circles. Press one circle into the pie dish, letting the excess pastry overhang.

Pile the apple slices and their juices in the shell and dot with butter. Lay the other pastry sheet over the apples and seal the edges. Make slits in the pastry. Brush all over with the egg white and sprinkle with sugar. Bake for 50-60 minutes until golden brown.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Banana, Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

I’ve done these muffins many times before and they are my quick and easy never-fail recipe when I need to use up ripe bananas. This weekend has been a wet one but I’ve enjoyed a spot of baking and I couldn’t pass up the chance to use my gorgeous new pastel silicone star and heart cases which I purchased last month at John Lewis. I’d read great reviews on silicone cases and they really lived up to their reputation, the only down side being I now want to buy more!The cases really helped the muffins retain the heart & star shapes and I love how cute they turned out. For those of you who have yet to try silicone cases, I say go out and buy them, you won’t be disappointed.

Banana, Peanut Butter & Milk Chocolate Chip Muffins

3 very ripe bananas
125ml vegetable oil
2 eggs
250g plain flour
100g caster sugar
½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
100g peanut butter chips
100g milk chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 200ºC/180ºC fan oven/gas mark 6 and line a 12-bun muffin tin with muffin papers.

Mash the bananas and set aside for a moment. Pour the oil into a jug and beat in the eggs. Put the flour, sugar, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder into a large bowl and mix in the beaten-egg-and-oil mixture, followed by the mashed bananas. Fold in the peanut butter and milk choc chips and then place equal quantities in the prepared muffin tin and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Cool in the tin for 5 minutes before removing to cool completely on a wire rack

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Chocolate & Caramel Flapjacks

I can’t believe I have open fire’s going in May but the weather has been wet and miserable this weekend, providing a perfect opportunity to do some baking! I’ve loved the section “Baking for a Fête” in this month’s Good Food magazine and couldn’t wait to make the Chocolate & Caramel Flapjacks. The recipe is very similar to Millionaires Shortbread but instead of a shortbread base these have a flapjack base, making them lovely and chewy. They are really simple to make, the hardest part being waiting for each stage to cool, chill and set. My hubby couldn’t wait to get his teeth into one of these babies and described them as naughty but absolutely amazing! Word of warning though, when cutting these into squares, its a messy job which entails having to lick fingers many times!!

Chocolate & Caramel Flapjacks

200g soft brown sugar
200g butter, plus extra for greasing
2 tbsp golden syrup
350g whole oats
397g can caramel (I used Carnation Caramel)
200g plain chocolate
1 tbsp unflavoured oil, like sunflower

Heat the oven to 150oC/130oC fan/gas 2. Place the sugar, butter and golden syrup together in a saucepan and gently heat until butter is melted, stirring occasionally. Take the saucepan off the heat and stir in the oats, mixing thoroughly. Pour the mixture into a line and lightly greased 22cm square tin, pressing it out evenly using the back of a wooden spoon. Bake in the centre of the oven for 40-45 mins.

Allow the mixture to cool in the tin for 10 min (or best results, leave to cool completely overnight), then evenly spread over the caramel. Chill until firm.

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, then stir in the oil and pour over the chilled caramel flapjack base. Let the chocolate set, then cut into squares.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

I had my parents staying over for the bank holiday weekend and it was lovely catching up with them. We didn’t do anything special as it was typical UK bank holiday weather (raining). Our time together was spent relaxing at home watching movies, playing poker, chilling in the garden (in-between bouts of rain) and eating good food. My parents are my biggest fans and love my cooking and baking, so I made sure they had something delish to eat every day.

I baked an Oreo Cheesecake and my favourite Toffee and Apple Crumble for desserts, which went down a storm. Unfortunately the cheesecake didn’t hang around long enough for me to take pics but it’s without doubt one I will bake again and blog about. I made this Carrot Cake after seeing it in this month’s Good Food magazine; the cinnamon frosting sounded and was amazing. I love carrot cake and this recipe ticked all the boxes and was loved by all. It’s definitely one I would make again and recommend with confidence!

Carrot Cake with Cinnamon Frosting

zest and juice 1 orange
50g sultanas
150ml sunflower oil, plus extra for greasing
2 large eggs
140g soft light brown sugar
85g wholemeal self-raising flour
85g self-raising flour
2 tsp ground mixed spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
140g carrots, coarsely grated
50g walnuts, chopped, plus a few halves to decorate

For the icing

200g soft cheese
50g butter, softened
85g icing sugar, sifted
Pinch ground cinnamon

If you have time to do it the night before, put the orange zest and juice in a bowl with the sultanas. If you don’t have time, on the day simply stir the zest, juice and sultanas together and microwave on Medium for 1-2 minutes.

Heat the oven to 180oc/160oC fan/gas 4 and grease and line the base and sides of a 2lb loaf tin. Whisk together the oil and eggs. Mix together the sugar, flours, mixed spice, cinnamon and bicarb in your largest mixing bowl. Add the sultanas with any juice and zest left in the bowl, grated carrot, walnuts and whisked egg mixture into the dry ingredients, then thoroughly mix with a wooden spoon. Tip into the loaf tin and bake on the middle shelf for 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool the cake in the tin.

Once cool, remove from the tin and make the icing. With an electric whisk, beat together the soft cheese, butter, icing sugar and cinnamon until smooth. Spread over the top of the cake and decorate with walnut halves.