Yuletide Greetings

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Indeed, Yuletide greetings to you all.

Today is the day of the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, celebrated as the festival of Yule in ancient and modern Pagan traditions. Yule was the traditional mid-Winter festival of ancient Europe, before being adopted and adapted by The Christian Church into the festival of Christmas. Being the shortest day of the year – that is, the shortest period of daylight between sunrise and sunset, obviously every day is always 24 hours long – the festival of Yule is based around the celebration of the sun returning and bringing life back to the world with the (gradual) move out of Winter towards Spring.

Whatever you want to call it – this time of year always makes me want to bake and feed people! So I do like to mark the Solstice with a bit of baking. Of course, the Chocolate Yule Log derives from the tradition of the Yule Log which was an actual wooden log that was burnt to celebrate the Solstice. I didn’t fancy lining myself up for the stress of trying to roll my own Chocolate Yule Log – instead I decided to go down the route of orange, marzipan and cinnamon as ingredients that make me think of warmth and sunshine.

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I used this recipe from Sweet Paul for Norwegian Skillingsboller, that’s Cinnamon Buns, although this recipe has an awesome twist of added marzipan! It takes a bit of time to make as it is a yeasted dough, so you need to leave it to rise, but other than the waiting the recipe is pretty easy. Note: mixing the butter into the dough is very messy!

Mine turned out a bit, haphazard looking – but this isn’t GBBO and I’m not marking myself on presentation or uniformity, it’s all about taste for me.

The finished buns are delicious, I’m going to struggle to restrain myself from eating them all. I did a taste test when they were warm and they were amazing – I’ve also had one cold and it’s still really good, but it might be worth zapping one in the microwave for a few seconds to warm before eating.

I also made these Tangerine and Marzipan Muffins from Olive Magazine. I haven’t tasted one of these yet, I’ve been too busy focussing on the Cinnamon Buns, but they smell really yummy 🙂

UPDATE: I’ve just tried one of thee and they are lovely! Light and orangey and not too sweet, surprisingly! Recommended 😊

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I have a feeling I may take a few steps backwards on my weight-loss over the next week :/

Hope you are all enjoying the festive season, whatever you celebrate and whatever you eat!

Love

Betty

Pulled Pork Stew

This summer I completely fell in love with Pulled Pork – it was cheap, easy and very, very tasty. It’s something I meant to blog about all summer but never got around to.

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Now, whilst Pulled Pork is a barbecue style dish (not that mine involved the use of a barbecue) and could generally be considered to be summer food, there obviously isn’t any reason why you can’t enjoy it in the winter – slow cooked spicy meat still sounds like a great, comforting winter meal.  However, I was inspired by a recent email from Tesco to put even more of an Autumnal-Wintery twist on my summer favourite and make a Pulled Pork Stew.

One of the best things about this recipe is that it uses Pork Shoulder, which is a really affordable cut of meat – Asda have Pork Shoulders available from £3 per kilo (I used around 700 grams of shoulder steaks and that was more than enough for 4 people).
Another great thing is that it is really quite low effort – as a slow cook dish, so you can put it on in the morning and it can cook all day to be as good as ready when you get home from work 🙂

Pulled Pork Spice Rub

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1. Mix the rub ingredients together in a bowl. Rub half into your meat then cover and leave in the fridge for a few hours or over night.

I have previously used Pork Shoulder Joints but used Shoulder Steaks this time for the stew, however, I think I would probably recommend Joints over Steaks

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 2. Preheat oven to 150 degrees Celsius  Place meat into a roasting tray/tin, add a cup of water and cover the whole tray in tin foil. Cook for 4 to 5 hours (for 1 to 1.5 kilos)

To make stew mixture
(any time after putting the meat into the oven) 


3. In a large pan/casserole dish – Soften a chopped onion and sliced celery (optional) in olive oil

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4. Add tinned tomatoes and water (number of cans depends on number you are feeding, I used one tin of tomatoes and one tin of water for 4 people)


5. Add chopped veg of your choice (I generally use carrot, peppers, courgette, tomatoes, green beans…)


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6. Add beans – I used tinned kidney beans in chilli sauce, but you can use any type of bean, fresh, dried (and soaked) or tinned (even baked beans) or skip the beans all together if they aren’t your thing (but they are very good for you and if you cook them for a long time you’ll probably not even notice they’re there!)

7. Add more tomatoes and/or water if more liquid is needed

8. Season to taste – salt, pepper, smoked paprika/cayenne pepper/chilli, tomato purée

9. Now you have a choice, which partly depends on how long you have left til the meat is cooked
– If it is still a few hours til the meat is ready you can either put the pot in the oven with the meat (make sure it is oven proof) and leave to slow cook or you can simply turn it off and leave it covered
– If the meat will be ready soon (within 30 minutes to one hour) you can leave the pot, covered, on a low heat on the hob or pop it in the oven with the meat

Bringing things together


10. Once the meat is cooked, remove the layer of fat (which will be weird and squidgy, not like crackling as Pete is always disappointed to find) then take two forks and pull the meat apart (hence PULLED pork) and mix in the spicy juices in bottom of the tin

11. Add the meat to the stew mixture – If you took the stew mixture off the heat while the meat cooked then do warm it up on a mid to low heat hob, or in the oven, before mixing the meat in

12. Serve. 
I served mine with savoury corn muffins made using this recipe, although substituting buttermilk for soy milk with a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar.

I certainly enjoyed it, and everyone else seemed to as well.

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I hope you are all well and enjoying some hearty and warming meals now autumn has definitely arrived.

Love,

Betty

x

 

Taste the Rainbow (Cake)

Note: This is not a post about Skittles, although Skittles are great!

Yesterday was my boyfriend Pete’s 25th Birthday 🙂 He was working all day, which was a bit sad for me (although he loves it as he works with dogs at the Blue Cross), but that gave me plenty of time to prepare a special birthday evening for the two of us.
My main task was baking him a birthday cake. He always says he’s not a big cake fan, but a birthday cake is a necessary part of a birthday as far as I’m concerned (plus I love cake and baking). I had decided exactly what kind of cake I was going to bake ages ago, it’s something I’ve wanted to try for a long time – Rainbow Cake!
I was a bit nervous about it all going horribly wrong, but it was actually surprisingly easy. The main drawback for me was that I only own one circular cake tin, so had to bake each layer one at a time :/

(This is actually a slightly adjusted recipe from the one I used, as next time I’d prefer a bit more cake batter to work with.)

A few additional points;

  • Although the number of colours might look intimidating, remember – you can mix your own, so you only really need a red, yellow and blue, then mix the green (blue & yellow), orange (red & yellow) an purple (red & blue) yourself!
  • I used a silicone cake ‘tin’ which I very lightly oiled to be extra sure the cake didn’t stick. If you’re using a metal cake tin remember to grease and line to avoid sticking.
  • Keep an extra close eye on your layers as they’re much thinner than a standard cake. My oven is poor so takes longer than most :/ Bake until the sponge bounces back when lightly pressed or a cocktail stick/skewer comes out clean.
  • Allow cake to cool slightly before removing from tin, then leave to cool fully on a cake rack before frosting
  • As usual, I cheated on the frosting and used Betty Crocker’s Vanilla Frosting which I got from Tesco, but you can get a much greater range of flavours and alternative brands on AmericanSweets.com A lot of these frosting’s are ‘accidentally vegan’ as they contain nothing even close to an animal (or natural!) ingredient, but do be careful to check ingredients as not all brand/flavours are vegan suitable. For my cake I used around a can and a half of frosting to frost between layers and all around the outside – for this modified recipe it might be closer to 2.
We had a lovely evening. Pete got to open all his presents – I got him lots of sweets and biscuits (all suitable for his cow-product-free diet), lots of books, some comics and a torc bangle from St Justin Jewellery. I think he was pretty happy with his haul. I cooked duck legs (£2.50 for 2 in Tesco!) with hoi sin noodles, followed by the cake, then we chilled out with beer/wine and watched Ironclad- the DVD his brother bought for him 🙂
I’m very glad he had a good birthday evening 🙂 It all makes me excited for my birthday though – shame that’s still five and a half months away!!
Hope you’re all having a good weekend,
Let me know if you have a go at the rainbow cake. I promise it is easier than it looks, it’s more about time than skill.
Love,

Bake, Rattle & Roll

I’ve had a serious cupcake craving ever since Monday when I saw all the yummy cupcakes at the ZOMG launch party! I finally got a bit of time to bake this afternoon and wanted to share the process with you. I’ve also recently acquired some new retro fonts, so I’ve also been playing around with annotating my photos 🙂

Ingredients

Recipe










Tips:
  • Check if your cakes are cooked either by pressing on the top and seeing if the cake bounces back or inserting a cocktail stick into the middle and seeing if it comes out clean. My oven is really poor so actually took about 25 minutes, even though the recipe said 15! Keep an eye on you cakes (but don’t open the door too early or they might sink!) and get to know how effective you oven is.
  • I’m still a frosting cheat, I used Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Buttercream Frosting  from a can, because it’s easier. It whipped it up with my electric mixer before pipping (been working on my pipping skills!).
  • My cupcake cases are silicone, which means they can be washed and reused instead of just throwing away paper cases 🙂
  • Go as crazy as you like with your decorations. I buy most of mine on eBay but I fancy trying out some sweets as decorations soon, jellies and buttons and dolly mixtures!
Let me know how it goes if you try making your own; they are pretty yummy if I do say so myself 🙂
Love

Bleeding Hearts

The first thing I have made using my own jam. They’re clearly just jammy dodgers, but I made them and I think Bleeding Hearts is a good name for them.
It’s a really simple recipe:
225g All-Purpose Flour
175g Margarine/Butter
130g Caster Sugar
1 Egg Yolk
Mix together the flour and butter in a mixer or with an electric whisk, until they look like breadcrumbs.
Add the sugar and egg yolk and continue to mix until the mixture starts to come together. I had to add a little water to form a proper dough.
Knead the mix to form a smooth dough, then roll into a ball, wrap in cling film and put into the fridge for half an hour.
When the dough is chilled, roll out onto a floured surface and cut out your shapes of choice.
Place shapes on a baking tray (with baking parchment or similar non-stick thing) and bake at 180 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes. My oven is really rubbish so I always have to bake things longer, usually judging by colour if they’re done.
After baking, cool on a wire rack. When cool, take two biscuits and stick together with jam!

I got about 10 sandwiched biscuits out of the batch, with a small amount of leftover dough that I just pressed into a circle and used as a taster, hehe 🙂

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As with most of my baking, they’re not perfect, but I’m not so bothered. They’re all slightly unique in their shape and they’re maybe a little crunchier than I had intended, but they’re yummy, and that’s the most important thing as far as I’m concerned 🙂

I always have a little struggle with my conscience over recipes that call for either just egg yolk or just egg white, I hate waste!! So I used the egg white that didn’t go into the biscuits and whipped up a small batch or meringues, so I probably am going to make lemon meringue cupcakes this week!

Hope you’ve enjoyed you weekend,
Betty
x

National Cupcake Week 12th-18th September

Next week is National Cupcake Week. Not that I need an excuse to make or eat cupcakes, but I’m getting rather excited by the idea of making huge quantities of pretty little cakes 🙂
Hopefully I’m going to have some willing volunteers to help me eat all the cupcakes I’m hoping to make, otherwise all my diet efforts will be wasted :/

My favorite ideas at the moment include;

  • Millionaire’s Cupcakes: Basic vanilla cupcake filled with caramel and topped with chocolate frosting
  • Cherry Bakewell Cupcake: Almond flavoured cupcake, filled with jam and iced
  • Lemon Meringue Cupcake: Lemon flavoured cupcake, topped with lemon curd, frosting and a mini meringue

In case any of you are thinking of getting your bake on, either for cupcake week, or just generally, I though I would share some of my favorite baking blogs with you for inspiration.

Buns In My Oven
This blog features the best recipes, with pictures so delicious they make you feel like you’re gaining weight by just looking at them. Of course, looking at the pictures is the least of your weight gain worried. With such divine creations as Hot Fudge Sundae Oreo Brownies, Rolo Cake Mix Cookies, Caramel Turtle Tart and Nutella Pop Tarts you can see what I mean!
For those of you less cake-obsessed than I am, there are also a plethora of great savory recipes too.
The recipes are all really well written, well explained and not too complicated. They also come with nice little stories behind them and some fantastic photography!
This is definitely one of my favorite baking blogs.

Confessions of a Cookbook Queen
OK, so this is another awesome sugar fuelled, cakey blog and it totally rivals Buns In My Oven for calorie content and beautiful pictures.
I have seen recipes on this blog that I could never have dreamt up, but definitely want to try. Some of the best include; Rocky Road Brownies, Mini Jello-O Fish Bowls, Cheesecake Filled Brownie Bites, Rolo Brownies and Key Lime Swirl Cheesecake Bars. That’s just five, but I could honestly just keep on listing the amazing recipes on this site all day!
This lady sure does know her desserts, and her photography. This is dessert porn if ever I saw it 🙂

Cookies and Cups
Well, would you know it, another beautiful, mouth watering baking blog. It’s a wonder I’m not a hideous, morbidly obese monster. While this blog may be another enemy of my waistline, I can’t help but love it.
Every post contains a great recipe, accompanied by taste bud tantalising photography and a nice, personal blog post. Some of the recipe highlights in my opinion would be; Cream-cheese filled Snickerdoodles, Caramel Swirled Pretzel M&M Brownies and Double Glazed Funfetti Donuts.
Yet another fantastic recipe resource that I really enjoy reading.

I could go on, but honestly, the sight of all this cake is giving me cravings that I’m struggling to suppress :/ I must stay away from the can of caramel in the kitchen, things could get very messy.

If you have any favorite recipes or cake/baking blogs, I’d love to hear about them.

Love,
Betty
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