Thursday, 29 December 2011

Rich Cheesy Biscuits

Recipe Number One Hundred & Thirty Eight:  Page 210.

Another Christmas has been and gone and I doubt I'm the only one now regretting over indulging on mince pies and chocolates. The buttons on my trousers are feeling more than a little strained and I am sure I've gained an extra chin!! I decided to limit my weekly Facebook Poll to lighter and hopefully healthier options to give my round body a rest! These cheesy biscuits crossed the finishing line in first place; obviously others are also longing for something savoury. I realise that cheese isn't a particularly healthy option. However, I think you will agree that it has to be better than chocolate truffles and half a box of Cadbury's Roses.

I've enjoyed a few days off over the festive season but it was nice to get back into the swing of things and get baking again. As we were staying with my parents when I made these little biscuits, it took me some time to find all that I should need; things are never where I remember them to be. The three baking trays I found had seen better days. Later, after I had finished my baking, I discovered some much nicer ones hidden away!

First of all I weighed the plain flour. I then tipped it into a sieve along with a small amount of salt and mustard powder. I am not a lover of mustard but the amount was so teeny tiny I doubted that the flavour would overwhelm the cheese. Once the dry ingredients had been sieved into a mixing bowl, I needed to rub in a good amount of butter. Mary doesn't mention that the butter should be soft, so I used it straight from the fridge. As my fingers were a little chilly, it took some time to work it into the flour! These biscuits certainly live up to their name; I was quite shocked by the quantity of cheese required. Grating is not my favourite pastime, which is a bit of shame as I was grating for some time! Exhausted, I moved on to mixing in a couple of beaten eggs. I very nearly made the mistake of tipping the eggs in all in one go. However, I'm told only to use enough to create a soft dough and reserve a little for glazing. The dough seemed a bit dry to start with but soon became soft and manageable. The next instruction was to wrap the dough in cling film and then chill it in the fridge for about fifteen minutes. I used this time to locate a suitable cutter. I couldn't find a plain round cutter but I did manage to locate one with a fluted edge – I think a fluted edge is prettier anyway!

It was soon time to start the job of rolling out the chilled dough. It was surprisingly easy to work with and very therapeutic. Soon I had my cheesy biscuits all cut out and laid out on their well used baking trays. I used a finger to wipe on the remaining egg. This appeared to do the job just as well as a pastry brush and was one less thing to wash up! Sesame or poppy seeds are suggested for sprinkling over the biscuits. I have never used poppy seeds before, so I was keen to put them to the test. I was a bit heavy handed with my sprinkling to start with but I did manage to reign myself in a bit towards the end!

The biscuits didn't require long in the oven, just ten to fifteen minutes. When peering through the oven door to check, I was worried as the trays were bubbling with what appeared to be melted butter. When the biscuits were cooked and out of the oven they were sitting in a puddle of grease, yum! The cheesy biscuits were easy to transfer onto a wire rack to cool and were not soggy as I had expected them to be. I couldn't resist trying one whilst still warm and a second soon found its way to my mouth! The outside of the biscuit had a delicious crunch while the inside was light and melted in the mouth. The flavour was indeed very cheesy and rich; there was just the merest hint of mustard.

Neil likened the biscuits in flavour to the popular mini cheddars and couldn't stop eating them. The rest of my family also seem to have started a new addiction. They said no other cheese biscuit will ever live up to these!! Considering all of the the cheese these contain and how many I consumed perhaps the truffles might be better for me after all!!!!!
Irresistible cheesy biscuits!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Buche de Noel

Recipe Number One Hundred & Thirty Seven:  Page 139.

I've been calling this recipe a Yule Log all week – I find it much easier to spell and, more importantly, pronounce. Apparently this is Mary's version of the French Christmas log and I was very much looking forward to sampling it!

It was one of the last things to tick off on my Christmas to do list. I ended up trying to cram all of the remaining items on my list into one afternoon. I had truffles and fudge to make before I could move onto the Buche de Noel. The truffles were a success but, alas, my fudge was a complete failure as I overcooked it. I was feeling more than a little fraught when I turned my frazzled attention to making the chocolaty log.

The first stage was to make a chocolate Swiss roll. Earlier in this challenge just the mere mention of a Swiss roll was enough to send a shiver of dread down my spine. I have only recently mastered the technique. Thankfully I now know to whisk the eggs and sugar until the mixture is really thick and mousse like; it takes a good few minutes to achieve the correct consistency. Next I folded in some sifted cocoa powder and flour. This part I found a little frustrating as the cocoa powder sank to the bottom of the bowl and was difficult to mix in thoroughly. I think I lost a lot of the air I worked so hard to create! I poured the thick chocolaty mixture into my lined Swiss roll tin and popped it into the oven. It only needed ten minutes to cook, so I took the time to work through the mountain of washing up. The base of our largest saucepan was thick with burnt fudge. I wondered if it would ever be the same again! Before long it was time to whisk the Swiss roll out of the oven, turn it out onto some greaseproof paper and roll it up with the paper inside. While the cake cooled I could get on with the filling.

I had to stir some coffee essence into a little hot milk. I wondered why the milk needed to be hot. I wasn’t best pleased, as this would add to my ever increasing pile of washing up! I was even more perplexed by Mary's instruction to sieve the chestnut purée into a bowl. I have made enough baby food to know that a purée is smooth!!! Despite my confusion I followed the instruction. I didn't like the look of the chestnut purée – I don't wish to put others off but I couldn't help thinking that it looked a lot like dog food!! To the sieved chestnut I added the hot milky coffee and a little sugar. I gave the unattractive mixture a good old mix until smooth, which didn't take long at all. The filling still wasn't finished as double cream was also required. To whip up the cream I of course needed another bowl. I barely found room for this additional bowl. It looked as though a tornado had whipped through the kitchen; it was a dreadful mess! I stirred in the cream and then, last of all, added a good glug of brandy. I was half tempted to have a glug myself to calm my nerves!! The combined mixture appeared to be a little on the runny side, and my goodness there was a lot of it. By now the Swiss roll was cool and ready to be filled with this runny brown mixture. I know how to paint a pretty picture! As I had suspected, I had way too much filling and only about half was used. I couldn't resist a taste of the leftovers. Although it was far from unpleasant, I thought the texture to be a little watery and it tasted of weak coffee; I didn't feel tempted to have any more.

I cut a small slice from the end of the Swiss roll and arranged the two pieces on a serving plate so as to look like a branch. I was very concerned when I saw that I needed 300ml of double cream to spread all over the cake. Would I have room for Christmas pudding after eating a slice of this? I overdid the dusting of cocoa powder and tried to take some off which of course made things worse – whoops!

Mary suggests decorating the finished cake with holly leaves. As we were at Neil's parents’ house, we were able to collect some straight from the garden! The finished Buche de Noel did look very festive but I am more used to a chocolate covered log rather than the stark white of cream. It would surely be foolish to attempt to eat it without the help of a fork or spoon as it's very messy to eat! I ended up with cream in my hair. It tasted very decadent but not sickly as I'd expected. I do think that the filling was a little weak in flavour but I could really taste the chocolate from the Swiss roll. I imagine that if I hadn't had all the others things to make I would of found it more enjoyable to do. I'd certainly consider making it again next year; hopefully by then I'll have learnt to limit my list to just a few things!!!
How festive!

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Victorian Christmas Cake

Recipe Number One Hundred & Thirty Six:  Page 136.

Here it is; my last Baking Bible Christmas cake! This recipe is graced with a photograph and the cake looks absolutely delicious; it certainly appears to be light and fruity. Judging by the photo and the list of ingredients a slice would certainly provide me with my five a day!

Neil took me on a 'big shop’ to get all of the things I need for Christmas. As I am making truffles and fudge for gifts this year, the trolley soon filled up. It definitely wasn't cheap! I think Neil thought it would have been easier and cheaper just to buy everyone a box of Thorntons!! A lot of ingredients are needed for this cake, but this is to be expected for a Christmas cake. I managed to get all that I needed apart from glacé pineapple but, as this was only required for decoration purposes, I didn't think it worth going all the way into town to search the shops!

I have to admit that I found it hard to summon up the energy to make this cake. As with most people at this time of year, we have a lot going on; I am a tad stressed that I'm simply not ready for Christmas!! I was told to write a ‘to do’ list. Apparently crossing things off when completed would make me feel better. However, I'm not sure it helped my stress levels when I had to reach for a second piece of paper! This cake was at the top of my list so I really couldn't ignore it for long. Thankfully, as soon as I was in the comfort of the kitchen, I felt my enthusiasm flood back and continue to grow as I dug out all the ingredients required. As always, baking soothed my soul and I soon felt a sense of calm, even when I had a battle double lining my cake tin!

First of all I had a lot of fruit to plough through. I was delighted that glacé cherries have such a large role – I don't think I've ever chopped and washed so many in one go. Rather unusually for a Christmas cake, I needed to include a good quantity of pineapple. Mary says to dry the cherries and pineapple on kitchen towel, of which I required copious amounts. Pineapples in particular are juicy little things! Now to move on to the vast quantity of dried apricots; I'm not a big fan of apricots, so I didn't feel tempted to pinch any as I snipped them with scissors. Luckily I enjoy them in cakes! I needed 350g but after 50g I was bored!! After about ten minutes of snipping apricots I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I'd finally completed my mission. Sadly there was little rest as I had to chop up a fair amount of blanched almonds. At first I tried to keep the pieces small but, by the end, they were substantially larger! That was all the rinsing, drying, snipping and chopping done and dusted, hooray! I added a lot of sultanas to the bowl; I really should have chosen a larger bowl as I had a leaning tower of fruit and nuts which was threatening to topple over at any given moment! I gingerly stirred in some grated lemon rind. I was lucky that only the odd sultana and cherry made a successful escape!

Now I could move on to make the cake by adding a whole packet of butter to another bowl along with the caster sugar. I measured in the flour and some ground almonds. I really love the flavour of almonds, especially when combined with cherries. I was surprised that I should need five eggs; it seemed such a lot, I hoped it wasn't a misprint! All that was left to do was give it a good old whisk and then stir in the mountain of fruit. I have to say it was quite a workout for my flabby little biceps! Once I had spooned all of the cake mixture into my deep cake tin I could decorate it with some whole blanched almonds and glacé cherries. I could quite understand why it would take over two hours to cook as the cake was absolutely massive and was in danger of spilling over the sides of the tin. I placed the heavy tin into the oven, where it would remain for two and a half hours.

The smell that wafted from the kitchen was heavenly and I was quite impatient for it to be ready so that I could have a taste! Finally I could collect the fruit laden cake from the oven; it looked so good that my mouth was soon watering. I left the cake to cool in the tin for the suggested half hour and then tipped it out to cool completely on a wire rack.

Neil was most impressed by the appearance of the cake and even more so by the taste. He thought it to be a deliciously sweet, moist and fruity cake. He really was very taken with it! I prefer my Christmas cakes to be rich and dark but this did make for a nice change. I still can't get over the volume of fruit it contains. The Victorians obviously enjoyed the finer things in life as this really is rather decadent!
Big Fat Christmas Cake!!
Anyone for a fruity slice of cake?!?

Monday, 19 December 2011

Iced Animal Biscuits

Recipe Number One Hundred & Thirty Five:  Page 257.

The title of this recipe offers a large hint as to what the finished biscuit should look like. Animals are the name of the game, be it a horse, a monkey or a dog. As a person who loves Christmas, I was dying to make something festive. Please forgive me for shoving the animal theme to one side in favour of something much more merry and of course jolly!
Now that my little boy is almost eighteen months, I really want him to be involved with baking. Biscuits seemed like a good place to start. As little Isaac is a whirlwind of activity, I knew all too well that I might live to regret my biscuit plan!!! I weighed the butter and flour into a large mixing bowl and then sat down on the kitchen floor with the bowl in my lap. Isaac toddled over to investigate. He watched as I rubbed the butter into the flour. Sure enough a hand ventured into the bowl and he was soon squidging the mixture between his little fingers; how very helpful! I did lose control at one point when he dropped a fistful of mixture then proceeded to mash it into the floor. Thank goodness I'm not house-proud! I thought it best if I added the egg and a little milk without my little helper’s assistance! Isaac and I soon had a soft dough and it was time to roll it out. The dough did seem a little sticky but there is no instruction to rest and chill it in the fridge. I cleared a space on our dining room table and dusted a fair amount of flour over the table and rolling pin. The dough was difficult to roll out, so I kneaded in a little more flour. This did the trick. Now it was time to gather my Christmas cutters from the drawer. This is where I hit a problem; I could only find two which were reasonably festive! I dug around in the depths of the drawer for ages but to no avail. I am certain I shall find them in the New Year when they will no longer fulfil any purpose! At least I had a star, angel and a heart; they would just have to do. I sat Isaac on my lap and, oh my goodness, was he eager to get stuck in. Little fingers gave the dough a good old poking and I think some ended up in his mouth! To be honest, Mummy did end up doing most of the cutting as Isaac didn't really get the idea of using the cutters to make shapes. He much preferred squidging up the dough. This didn't matter as we had so much fun playing with the dough. What a great way to entertain an inquisitive toddler!

The little biscuits went into the oven on various baking trays; they only needed about ten minutes in the oven and my first batch burnt, sob. As the biscuits cooled on a wire rack, I made the icing. I sifted the icing sugar into a bowl, added a little lemon juice and brought it together until I had a spreadable consistency. It did take a while to spread the thick icing onto each biscuit. First of all I kept it white and then coloured some green and red so as to make things a little more festive. Isaac's next job was to sprinkle over some decorations. We had little hearts and sprinkles. Most ended up on the table, floor and in Isaac's mouth but some did make it onto the biscuits! I was so pleased with the finished biscuits; they are so simple but pretty. However, if you ask me, the angels look more like ghosts!

I broke up a star biscuit to share with Isaac; I thought it only fair that he should get to sample his handiwork. He put one piece of the star into his mouth and smiled. He picked up another piece in his left hand then another in his right and walked off stuffing his face. I was left with one piece – how kind! It was obvious that Isaac loved his little biscuits and Neil and I enjoyed them too! They were lovely and buttery and the lemony icing combined beautifully. I've never iced a biscuit before in my life; I wasn't sure if it would be worth the effort. How wrong I was. It was so much fun but maybe my little helper made it extra special. We'll be making them again soon and perhaps next time we will make animal shapes!
 Mummy's little helper :-)   
Isaac's Biscuits xx

English Madeleines

Recipe Number One Hundred & Thirty Four:  Page 125.

I was looking forward to trying my hand at these little cakes. The photograph in the Baking Bible makes me smile – the madeleine looks thoroughly cheerful! Maybe it is the halved cherry perched on top or the red jam peeping through the layer of coconut. Either way they look fun!

I was lucky enough to have some dariole moulds in my possession. My mother-in-law had given me a set of two different sizes right at the beginning of this challenge. Finally I would be putting them to good use. As they had been neglected for some months, they needed a dust and wash before I could grease them. Mary says the mixture would make ten madeleines. I had four large and four small moulds. The smaller size looked too tiny, so I decided to use the large and make them in several batches. I have rather short stumpy fingers so it was a little tricky greasing the moulds. I'm not sure that I reached every nook and cranny! I wasn't overjoyed by the prospect of lining the base of each mould with greaseproof paper. To save time, I cut two long strips of paper and folded it along the length until I was left with a thick square. Using a dariole mould as a guide, I drew and then cut out a circle; this left me with five neat circles. I followed the process once more, so I ended up with ten. I can't tell you how chuffed I was that I didn't have to cut each circle individually. I admit to feeling rather pleased with myself!!!!

The cake was so simple to make; it was just a case of measuring butter, sugar, eggs and flour into a bowl. It was one of Mary's wonderful all in one recipes and was basically the same as a Victoria sandwich. I should be able to make them with my eyes closed by now! I very nearly ruined the cakes by adding too much vanilla extract. I was all ready to add in two to three teaspoons instead of drops. Thank goodness I read it through once more just to be sure; otherwise the vanilla might have been just a little overwhelming. Now I needed to beat the mixture until smooth. This did take quite a while, but this was probably due to my butter not being suitably soft – whoops! Once the mixture was finally smooth, I started to spoon it into the dariole moulds. Mary says to fill them half full. I realised very quickly that I didn't have a hope in hell of making ten madeleines. I hoped I could get away with using four large and four small moulds. As I'd gleefully mentioned earlier, I'd already cut out the paper circles, but of course they'd be too big for the smaller ones. I resentfully cut them to size! I should have known that life is never that simple! Finally the madeleines were in the oven. Surprisingly, even though they were different sizes, they all required the same cooking time of twenty minutes. The cakes rose beautifully and were a lovely golden colour. I left them to cool in the tins for a few minutes and then jiggled them out of the tins. They did need a fair amount of encouragement to exit their tins!

While the cakes cooled I needed to go and buy the very important desiccated coconut and also post my Christmas cards. I know I am shamefully late getting round to them. The weather was pretty dismal but, as Neil was home, I could leave Isaac tucked up in the warmth of his bed whilst I made a dash for it, unhindered by a ridiculously large pushchair! It was busy in the tiny post office so I ended up standing outside sticking stamps onto numerous envelopes in the pouring rain. I am certain that I looked rather pathetic! I was soggy by the time I had made it to the shop, but at least they had the much needed coconut. I was unable to buy all the other things I needed as I'd forgotten my shopping list!!

As soon I returned home, I took off my dripping coat and headed straight to the kitchen. I trimmed the tops of my little cakes so that they were relatively flat. I had to sieve the jam, which did not please me. This equated to more washing up which can never be a good thing. The sieved jam then needed to be warmed – how very demanding this jam was proving to be! By this time Isaac was up and charging about. He showed a vague interest as I speared a madeleine with a fork and brushed on some warm jam. The interest grew a little when I rolled the cake on a plate covered with coconut. After applying the jam to the second cake I took hold of one of his hands and we rolled the cake in the coconut – this pleased him immensely! We carried on in this fashion until all the cakes were covered in coconut and the floor also had a good coating. I have to say that I found the process to be very therapeutic and, yes, really good fun! Last of all I sliced some cherries in half and placed a half on top of each cake for a cheery decoration.

These pretty little madeleines really were a ray of sunshine on a miserable day. They were so easy and fun to make. They are something that can be made with little helpers – Isaac and I really enjoyed ourselves! As for the taste, well the first thing that springs to mind is moreish! The vanilla sponge is light and fluffy, but it's the jam and coconut that make it so very yummy. I will certainly be making these madeleines again and again; they are such delightful little cakes!
They didn't last long!

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Mississippi Mud Pie

Recipe Number One Hundred & Thirty Three:  Page 97.

This was a very popular choice on my Facebook Poll this week; it won the vote by a very hefty margin. I have hazy memories of eating a shop bought Mississippi mud pie many moons ago. I can't remember what it tasted like apart from it being extremely rich! When I cast an eye over the list of ingredients for this recipe I could quite see why, as it did not appear to be a dessert for the faint hearted or for those who are watching their waistlines.

I needed six eggs to make the Mississippi mud pie; yes I was shocked by the amount too! Annoyingly I was one egg short of the required half dozen, so I headed over to our local shop. Whilst I was there I also purchased the digestive biscuits needed for the biscuity base. I had to buy a massive packet which also had 50 per cent extra free. This is very generous of the biscuit manufacturers, but I doubt I'll be able to resist eating the rest of the packet. Honestly, I am doing a great job of fattening myself up for Christmas!

I arrived home laden with heavy shopping and aching arms. As the light fades so early at this time of year, I am really struggling to take decent photos. With this in mind I am trying to bake a little earlier than usual. I looked at the clock and decided I'd better get a wriggle on as time was ticking by; it was almost two o'clock already! I am well used to making Mary's biscuit bases by now and it was no surprise that this particular base would be rather sparing. Only six and a half biscuits (of course I ate the remaining half) were used, which doesn't seem very much. I crushed up the biscuits until I had fine crumbs and then added them to a saucepan of melted butter. Again, the quantity of butter seemed rather small. To add a bit of sweetness to the equation I tipped in some Demerara sugar; perhaps using this large grained sugar would give an extra crunch to the base? After stirring it all together it was ready to be pressed into the base of my loose bottomed tin. Mary says to use the back of a metal spoon so of course I followed suit, although I am unclear as to why I should use a metal spoon rather than a wooden one!

Now the base was done and dusted I could move on to making the rather odd chocolaty filling. I say odd because it wasn't what I had been expecting. I suppose I'd imagined a chocolate cake topping. However, due to all of the eggs, it was obviously going to turn out rather runny. I felt intrigued as to what I would end up with! Automatically I set a bowl over a pan of water to melt the chocolate, only to find that I should put the chocolate directly into the saucepan. It would save on the washing up, which is always a bonus! To the two bars of chocolate I added a good amount of butter along with a small quantity of coffee granules. The next part was a little annoying as I needed to pour in just a tablespoon of boiling water. I wasn't going to boil the kettle for such a measly amount, so used it as an excuse to make a cup of tea. I heated the mixture over a low heat and stirred every now and again whilst sipping on the hot mug of tea. It's a hard life! Once the chocolate and butter had melted, I took it off the heat and moved on to the next stage. I poured in a large amount of single cream. I began to wonder if I might as well book a hospital bed now to save time. I beat in the cream and then measured in a hefty amount of dark muscovado sugar. Perhaps using this dark and dense sugar is what makes this dessert so very rich. The sugar in question was rock hard and was so difficult to whisk in. I think I managed to get rid of most of the lumps but I'm sure a few stubborn ones remained. Next I started the egg cracking marathon – I lightly beat the eggs in a jug before whisking into the chocolaty mixture. The result was so runny that I wasn't surprised when it merrily dripped out of the base of my tin almost as soon as I had poured it in. I quickly placed the dripping tin into the heated oven and quickly shoved a baking tray on the bottom shelf to catch the escaping mixture. I wondered if I’d just be left with the biscuit base! Soon the heat of the oven worked its magic and the drips were halted. Stalactites of mixture hung precariously from the base of the tin! The mud pie cooked for almost half an hour. Each time I checked I was worried as it had a vast deep dip in the middle of the pie; it did not look good. By the time I took the pie out of the oven it had risen to almost the top of the tin – it was huge. I left it to cool completely and, when I checked on it an hour or so later, it had become quite deflated and was now at a more sensible height! On closer inspection, I noticed that the sides of the pie had folded in. Oh dear! I could certainly see how it got its name as it looked just like a lump of mud!

I left the unsightly dessert to cool in the tin and, once completely cold, I lifted it out onto a plate. Now to add some double cream; obviously more fat is deemed necessary. I could almost feel my arteries clog! Mary just says to put the whipped cream on top of the pie. I hoped she didn't expect me to pipe on pretty swirls as I think it would have made it look even worse! I searched on line and it seemed that most people simply placed a heaped dollop of cream in the centre. This I felt to be a good idea as it didn't attempt to mask the ugliness!!! The finished mud pie might not look very appetising but the taste is, of course, the most important aspect. I gingerly cut a slice. I was relieved to see that it was thoroughly cooked through – phew! I gave Neil an enormous slice and he visibly baulked at the sight of the chocolaty dessert. He said it tasted a lot better than he imagined it would but said it was too rich for him. Knowing what had gone into it, I cut just a small sliver for myself. It was very dark and rich. The taste of coffee was surprisingly strong, but complimented the chocolate well. The dark muscovado sugar was also much in evidence – it gave a treacly toffee flavour. It had a lovely mousse like texture which was rather yummy! I really liked the biscuit base – just a shame there wasn't more of it. I think this dessert is way too rich for me but that is just my personal taste. I wonder how many years it will be until I try a Mississippi Mud Pie again?!?!
Looks aren't everything are they?!?!?

Iced Fairy Cakes

Recipe Number One Hundred & Thirty Two:  Page 114.

As mentioned in my previous post, I had a very busy day baking cakes for a photo shoot - eeeek! I wanted to make something that would be quick to make and it also needed to be fun and colourful for the photos. Fairy cakes are simplicity itself. Also I knew my little boy would love them; what child wouldn't!

I placed some colourful paper cases into a bun tin and rejoiced at not having to grease a tin or cut greaseproof paper to size! This meant that I could quickly move on to the fun part of making the cakes. As it was an all in one recipe, I just had to add all the ingredients to a bowl and mix. The oven had been on all day, so the butter I had left next to it was so soft I could barely pick the packet up! I added the sugar on top of the VERY soft butter and cracked in a couple of eggs. I have to say that, after a day of baking, I had become a dab hand at cracking eggs. I admit that I got a bit carried away at this point and attempted it one handed; the attempt failed. I painstakingly picked the pieces of shell from the mixture and washed my eggy hands. I don't think I'll be attempting the one handed trick again anytime soon! With both of my hands I carefully added in the flour and sprinkled in a little baking powder; now to beat it all together. Mary says to beat for two to three minutes, which felt like a long time! By the time the mixture was ready to go into the paper cases it was silky smooth. I placed generous dollops of mixture into each case and then placed the tray of cakes into the oven. The cakes would only take about 15 minutes to cook, so I couldn't very easily go off and start anything else. I found myself crouched down watching the little cakes rise in the oven. I think insanity was setting in, especially as I quite enjoyed watching the cakes lift up from the depths of their paper cases!!!

Finally my cakes were ready! Straight away I picked the cakes out of the bun tin and placed them on a wire rack to cool. It was hot work and I burnt one or two fingers in the process – but better that than soggy cakes!

The icing was as quick and easy to make as the cakes. I needed a vast amount of icing sugar; it seemed such a lot just for few cakes. I used a little warm water to bring it together to form a thick glacé icing. Even though I spooned a good quantity of icing over each cold cake, I still had a lot left over. It was a bit too sweet even for me to lick out the bowl! I opened up a packet of dolly mixtures and snaffled a few before placing three on top of each cake. I was pleased with my fairy cakes as they looked much the same as the photograph in the Baking Bible.

I packed up the fairy cakes and all of the other cakes and biscuits I'd made for the photo shoot. I was so worried that they would get damaged in transport. The drive to the stately home was only half an hour according to the sat-nav. Unfortunately we had the wrong postcode and were taken to a farm track on the wrong side of the house. We had to go around the nearby village, along narrow little lanes. It wasn't helped by the torrential rain and then snow!! After several phone calls we discovered both the stylist and photographer were having exactly the same trouble. We ended up travelling up a very bumpy farm track. There were shrieks and giggles from our son and cries of “Oh no, my cakes” from me! Nearly an hour later we eventually drove up to the very impressive house.

The stylist must have used at least an inch of concealer to hide the bags under my eyes!! I was given a dress and pinny to change into. Even Neil was kitted out in a smart outfit; he usually lives in jeans so wasn't too sure! The fantastically lovely photographer turned up an hour later. It transpired that, not only had he been lost, but he'd also had to be rescued by the AA after getting stuck in the mud! Once the cheerful photographer had arrived the photos could commence. His happy banter immediately put me at ease and all of my nerves disappeared. It was fantastic that Neil and Isaac played a bit part in the photographs; it will be so lovely to have some family shots.

The little fairy cakes went down well and the stylist and photographer took some home for their children. They tasted so lovely, light and sweet. As Mary says, they are ideal for a child's party. They can be whipped up in mere minutes and devoured just as quickly!

We left with big smiles on our tired faces and, once home, we collapsed and didn't move for the rest of the evening. It was a fantastic and exciting day and certainly unforgettable!
Fun and very tasty!

Iced Apricot Fruit Loaf

Recipe Number One Hundred & Thirty One:  Page 303.

If you follow my challenge on Facebook or on Twitter you'll no doubt already know my very exciting news, so please forgive me for repeating myself. For those who have perhaps just stumbled upon my blog, this is what it’s all about. A journalist came across my blog last week and got in contact to find out more. I was delighted that my challenge was of interest to her and, a few days later, I was ecstatic when I was informed that the Daily Mail wanted to run an article about me and my blog. Could this really be true? As Neil will tell you, it took some time for me to stop shaking! At lightning speed I'd had a telephone interview and a photo shoot was arranged. For the photo shoot I needed to bake seven cakes and bakes. Although the photos wouldn't be taken in our humble little kitchen, I was pleased that all of the cakes that would appear in the photos would be made by my two hands. This did mean, however, that a very long baking day was in store!

Although most of my chosen cakes were ones I'd already made, I did want to choose two things I'd not tried before. One of my choices was this apricot fruit loaf; it sounded fairly easy to make and I thought it would look good in the photos.

First of all, I chopped up some glacé cherries before rinsing and drying them. I was using up the last few cherries from a tub which had been opened a while. The cherries were sitting in about half an inch of sticky syrup and didn't look very tempting, I was glad to give them a rinse under the tap! Next, I had to crack some eggs into a mixing bowl before adding all of the remaining ingredients on top – I'm not quite sure why the eggs have to go in first!!! Dutifully I carried out Mary's instructions and tipped the flour over the eggs and then some softened butter. I was surprised to be using light muscovado sugar instead of caster sugar. I wondered if the muscovado sugar would create a richer loaf. I now had to add the important dried apricots. I have learnt through this challenge not to spend ages chopping apricots or any other soft fruits for that matter with a knife; it is so much quicker to use scissors! I added the scissor snipped apricots to the rest of the ingredients. There swiftly followed the rinsed and dried cherries. Last of all, I tipped in a good quantity of sultanas. What a fruity loaf this was going to be! I used my trusty electric whisk to beat the mixture until combined. Now I just needed to spoon the thick fruit packed mixture into my greased and lined loaf tin and pop it into the oven to cook for just over an hour. Meanwhile, I got on with making yet more cakes. Of course, with all of this baking comes a mountain of washing up; my hands soon looked like a pair of shrivelled raisins!!

Thankfully the icing wasn't too tricky to make but I could have done without getting covered in a fine dusting of icing sugar. I warmed a small amount of apricot jam and water together then poured it onto the icing sugar and gave it a good old mix. It was a little runny but Mary says it should be of a spreadable consistency, which it certainly was! I covered the cake with the runny icing. Of course some escaped down the sides, but I think it added somewhat to its charm! I used my scissors to cut up yet more apricots and decorated the loaf as instructed by sprinkling the apricots down the centre. I was really pleased with the overall appearance of the cake; it looked very appetising. Having the apricot jam mixed in with the icing gave a slight tinge of orange and, combined with the apricot decoration, the loaf looked rather pretty and delicate!

The loaf was easy to slice and easy to eat too. It was sweet and moist and I could really taste the tang of the apricots. This loaf is packed to the brim with flavour but no fruit overpowers the other. I think using light muscovado sugar instead of caster did indeed give it a richer flavour. I don't think caster sugar would have given the same depth of flavour. I'll certainly be making this cake again; it's a real winner!
One of my favourite loaf cakes :-)

Monday, 12 December 2011

Chocolate Chip and Vanilla Marble Cake

Recipe Number One Hundred & Thirty:  Page 251.

I found this recipe in the children's section of the Baking Bible; Mary says it is a traybake, particularly popular at children's parties. I wasn't about to let that tiny detail stop me making it for my mother-in-law’s social gathering – I felt confident that this cake would suit all ages!

It had been a wet, dark, generally miserable day. I very much wanted to stay tucked up in bed with a hot mug of cocoa, but I was unable to attempt hibernation as my little boy was in need of attention!

I made a start fairly early so that the cake would be ready in time for an afternoon collection. Unfortunately I couldn't get hold of unsalted butter, so I had to make do with slightly salted. I hoped it wouldn’t be noticeable! I put the butter along with sugar and flour into a bowl. Even though I was using self raising flour, I still needed to add two teaspoons of baking powder. This meant that I was expecting a well risen cake. I hoped it wouldn't rise too much! I collected some eggs and broke them into a bowl. I should have cracked the eggs into a separate bowl first, as three small pieces of shell ended up in my mixing bowl. Using a teaspoon, I managed to catch hold of a piece and drag it up the side of the bowl only for it to escape and fall back into the mixture. I am not one to be defeated and I was triumphant in the end! The last things to be included in the mixture were a small quantity of milk and vanilla extract. I gave the mixture a whisk for two minutes; Mary is very precise with her timings. She was proved to be right of course, as it did take two minutes until my mixture was perfectly smooth! Now of course I needed to make half of the mixture all lovely and chocolaty. To do this I simply added some cocoa powder to a bowl and poured in a little hot water. I gave it a good mix until combined. I left the rich and runny chocolaty mixture to cool whilst I spooned half of the vanilla mixture into my traybake tin. Mary says to dot the spoonfuls well apart from each other. I tipped the rich chocolate into the remaining cake mixture. I was delighted to be adding in some chocolate chips although I was a little peeved by the small quantity; I consoled myself by picking on the leftovers! I dotted the chocolate mixture in between the plain cake mix to fill the gaps. Mary does not say to blend the two flavours together to create a marbled affect, so I left it as it was; it was so hard to resist the strong urge to intermingle them! I popped the cake into the oven and then washed up. I rewarded myself by having a sit down and finishing off the packet of chocolate chips, whoops!

I was a little disheartened when I took the cake out of the oven; it was fairly flat and had barely risen – so much for my fears of it rising too much! As instructed, I left it to cool completely in the tin. I assumed this helped keep the cake moist. As it was the cake looked rather unattractive with its mottled top! Thankfully this was solved by melting both plain and white chocolate and drizzling it over the surface of the cake. This made the cake look a bit more interesting and fun. My mother-in- law kindly left Neil and me some of the cake so that we could have a taste. I thought the cake to be a little dry, but it tasted lovely and quite sweet. I couldn't taste the chocolate that clearly – but, as I was stuffed full of chocolate chips, I wasn't particularly fussed! The traybake went down very well with my mother-in-law’s friends and I don't believe there were any leftovers – so lovely to think my cake was well received!

Fast Mincemeat Christmas Cake

Recipe One Hundred & Twenty Nine:  Page 138.

Christmas is fast approaching; I can almost feel it snapping at my heels! I really don't feel ready this year. I have much still to do and I haven't even started writing out cards yet, eek! I realise I'm perhaps leaving it a bit late to make a Christmas cake, but the beauty of this cake is that it doesn't need to be made in advance nor does it need brandy feeds!! It also promises to be quick to make, hence its title. I am giving baked goodies for gifts this year. This idea went down well with Neil's dad and he asked if I could make him a Christmas cake, not a mini version but a full sized one. Hopefully he will be willing to share!

I'd planned to make the cake at lunchtime while my little boy had his nap. Unfortunately Isaac didn't settle, so this ultimately led to his coming back downstairs for cuddles. This of course meant that baking took a back seat. Maybe Isaac was just in need of a boost of vitamin C as, after a Satsuma, he was a different child! Much later on when, I should have been making our evening meal, I made a start on the cake. Surely it would be super quick to make and would be in the oven in mere minutes?!

The first thing that struck me was that I had never seen a Christmas cake recipe with such a short list of ingredients; it was a revelation! It also appeared to be a very easy to follow recipe. Mary can always be relied on for her speedy and reliable all in one method – I love her for it!!!

By some miracle I had remembered to leave the butter out of the fridge, so it was lovely and soft by the time I added it to my mixing bowl. A couple of eggs were soon joining the butter and then I moved on to weighing the flour. I collected the jar of mincemeat from the shelf, whipped off the lid and tipped the contents onto the scales. The label on the jar told me that it contained 410g of mincemeat and, as the recipe required 400g, I cleverly worked out that there would be 10g left over for me to enjoy. Yes I can happily eat mincemeat on its own – I love the stuff! To my horror and dismay I quickly realised that I'd been diddled; there would be no cook's perk for me as the jar only contained 395g – humph!

After that bombshell I had to clear my dark thoughts and move on to adding the currants. To be honest, I'm not the biggest fan of currants. I find them to be a bit hard and chewy unlike their cousins the raisin and sultana. Last of all I chopped up some almonds. This did slow down proceedings a little. I chopped each nut roughly into three pieces, believing a third of an almond to be the perfect bite! When it came to mixing everything together with my electric whisk, I was worried I would end up pelted in mincemeat and nuts. However, to my surprise, it all combined together easily and only one small piece of nut shot out! As I spooned the mixture into the tin, a dollop landed on the floor; I should have known I couldn't escape from making a mess! I placed the tin into the oven and then moved on to the important job of licking out the bowl. At least I didn't get to miss out completely on my mincemeat fix. It tasted delicious; I could only wish that I hadn't been quite so thorough when scraping out the bowl!

The cake cooked while I got on with cooking the evening meal. Even though there is no denying that it had taken a lot less time to make than most Christmas cakes, it had still managed to take longer than I'd anticipated. Now Neil and I were going to have a late meal. Thankfully Neil hadn't noticed the time as he was busy doing yet more DIY! An hour later, and stuffed to the gills with food, I waddled back to the oven to check on the cake. As Mary suggests, I put some foil over the top to stop it from becoming too brown on top. Another forty-five minutes and it was ready. It looked a lovely rich brown and smelt delicious. Once the cake was cool I wrapped it in some greaseproof paper and stored it away in the under stairs cupboard! I will cover it in marzipan and then ice it in time for Christmas. I will of course add another picture, once decorated, and let you know how it tastes once it has been sampled by Neil's dad on Christmas day!
Not the most exciting picture!!

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Walnut and Raisin Loaf

Recipe Number One Hundred & Twenty Eight:  Page 292

This walnut and raisin loaf won the vote on my Facebook Poll this week by quite a margin. I have to admit that bread comes as a welcome change from cakes. All of this cake eating is of course wonderful, but there's no escaping the side effects. My clothes are starting to feel a tad tight, so I was pleased to make some bread and have a cake free day. This particular loaf appears to be rather healthy as it contains wholemeal flour, nuts and dried fruit; it sounds perfectly virtuous!

Before I made a start on the bread my little boy decided that a trip to the swings was in order. I'm expected to take him in all weather conditions, although I do draw the line at torrential rain! Thankfully, on this occasion there was not a cloud in the sky, but my goodness it was windy. Isaac certainly lifted a little higher on the swings. By the time we returned home I looked as though I'd put my finger in a light socket – not a pretty sight! I was happy to head to the warmth of the kitchen and make up a comforting loaf of bread. The thought of tucking into a slice (more likely two) with an afternoon cup of tea spurred me on. Isaac had thoughtfully laid out an assault course for me to liven up my baking. I kept stubbing my toe on tins of chopped tomatoes and baked beans!!

First of all, I had to put an equal amount of white and wholemeal bread flour into my largest mixing bowl. To sweeten the bread, I tipped in a tablespoon of muscovado sugar. The last dry ingredient needed was a little ground cinnamon which smelt wonderful; is there a more comforting smell? Now to add a little melted butter and warm water. I was just about to mix everything together when I realised that I hadn't added the yeast – what a disaster that would have been! I quickly located a sachet and added it to the runny mixture. I did worry that I had perhaps added too much water. However, after stirring it all together, it turned out that it was a bit on the dry side if anything! Mary says it should be a fairly sticky dough. I was tempted to add a touch more water but I resisted as I thought that I would probably make matters worse. When I tipped the dough out onto the worktop it was so easy to work with; the five minutes of kneading whizzed by. I popped the by now smooth and elastic dough into a bowl and covered it with cling film. It was rather chilly in the house but thankfully the sun was shining, so I placed my bowl of dough on a window sill for the recommended hour and a half. When the time was up, I was glad to see that it had risen well and was at least double its original size.

Walnuts and raisins are in the recipe title; now it was time to make use of them. I didn't bother to chop the walnuts. They are a fairly soft nut so I was able to break them up with my fingers. I think it was quicker this way; even if not, it was more fun! I flattened the ball of dough out onto the worktop and pressed in the nuts. It was a bit of a balancing act as they kept rolling off! I weighed out the raisins and pushed them on top of the nuts. I kneaded the dough as best I could with all its added lumps and bumps. It took a while to work everything together. I rolled the dough rather haphazardly into two sausage shapes. I couldn't help but notice that one was MUCH larger than the other. I never thought the day would come, but I weighed each piece of dough!! I obviously have a dreadful eye. No wonder I never win games such as guess the weight of a jar of sweets. There was over a 100 g difference between the two – I know, it's shocking!! I readjusted my two lumps of dough and re-rolled them in a sausage fashion once again. I placed them onto a lined baking tray and tucked it into a ‘bag for life’ carrier bag - they have many uses. I then left them to rise on the baking tray for another 40 minutes or so. I of course forgot all about my loaves. It was over an hour before I remembered and jumped to attention! They had risen beautifully. I brushed over some beaten egg for a glaze and put the tray into the oven for around 20 minutes. The smell of baking bread is always amazing; add in cinnamon and it's intoxicating. The loaves looked wonderful once cooked and were a lovely golden brown; I couldn't wait to cut a slice. Once I was able to touch the bread without scalding my hand, I cut a doorstep wedge from one of the loaves and took a bite. It was rather yummy! I could really taste the cinnamon and raisins. I was surprised that Mary says it's a savoury bread as I thought it to be quite sweet. I could certainly taste the walnuts but they were more a background flavour. Of course their crunch was much in evidence! The texture of the bread wasn't heavy but I wouldn't describe it as light either, I expect this is due to using both white and wholemeal bread flour. The texture fitted in well with the cinnamon and raisins. Neil absolutely loved this bread. Every time I looked at him that evening he seemed to be eating it!

I'm not sure that having bread instead of cake really made much difference to my waistline as I smothered each slice with butter – whoops!!
Yummy bread hot from the oven!

Monday, 5 December 2011


Recipe Number One Hundred & Twenty Seven:  Page 165.

There is a photograph of Mary's Chocolatines in the Baking Bible; every time I stumble across it a shudder runs though me. The reason for this violent shudder is not revulsion but rather a deep fear. The photograph is gorgeous but the perfect Chocolatines look way beyond my baking capabilities! The fact that Mary says they are fiddly to make does little to quell my fear. It also doesn't help that the instructions spread over TWO pages, eeeeek!

I thought it wise to start baking at lunchtime when my little boy was in bed. This way I hoped I would be free from distractions. After a deep intake of breath, I reluctantly cracked on with the first task of making the Genoese sponge. The first thing I needed to do was melt a small amount of butter in a saucepan. Once this was done, I left it to cool whilst I got on with whisking a few eggs with some sugar. I felt as though I was on familiar ground at this point as I was using the same method as for a Swiss roll. I had to whisk the mixture on full speed until it was pale and thick enough to leave a trail when the whisk was lifted from the bowl. Next, I sifted some flour along with a little cornflour into another bowl. I then folded half of the flours into the eggy mixture. I did worry at this stage as it was hard to mix the flours in thoroughly and the last thing that I wanted to do was over work it. The next instruction seemed a little odd. I had to pour half of the cooled butter around the edge of the mixture and fold it in. I was no longer on familiar ground, as I've never added butter this way before! I repeated this process with the remaining flour and butter and poured it into a tin. I had to use a deep square tin instead of a shallow one; I very much hoped this wouldn't matter!

While the cake was cooking I got on with making the crème au beurre chocolat or, to you and me, chocolate butter cream! I separated a couple of eggs and put the yolks into yet another mixing bowl. The whites were not required, so I may have to make some meringues to use them up! I had to heat some water and sugar together in a saucepan. Mary doesn't mention using a sugar thermometer, so I didn't reach for mine. I followed her advice and let the sugar melt before bringing it to the boil. Apparently it's ready when the syrup forms a thread when pulled apart between two teaspoons. Once the syrup was at this stage, I slowly poured it on top of the egg yolks whilst whisking all the time. Obviously the sugar was too hot, as it cooked a small amount of egg and went rock hard!! I pressed on regardless, even though I sensed that this butter cream was doomed! I kept whisking until the mixture was cold.

In yet ANOTHER bowl I creamed a lot of butter until it was really soft and then gradually beat in the lumpy eggy mixture. At this point I realised that I had forgotten to melt the plain chocolate. I searched for a clean bowl; it was a difficult find as there was barely anything left in the cupboards! I added the chocolate to the bowl and set it over a pan of hot water. Once it had melted and cooled, I stirred it into the buttery mixture. I thought I'd better have a taste of the butter cream as I was worried I'd over cooked it. Thankfully my prayers were answered as it tasted divine, so rich and chocolaty.

By this time the cake was cooked. I was pleased to see that it had risen well and was a lovely golden brown. I tipped it out of the tin and left it to cool on a wire rack. I was so scared by the thought of slicing the cake in half. Although it had risen it was still quite thin. I am ashamed to admit I chickened out and got Neil to do it for me! I sandwiched the two slices of cake together with a little of the butter cream. I bravely faced the next challenge and gingerly cut the cake into nine two inch squares. Next came the VERY messy job of spreading more of the butter cream over the top and all four sides of each square of cake. I was soon completely smothered. I'd always thought that being covered in chocolate would be wonderful but now I'm not so sure! Next, I weighed out a lot of already chopped and toasted mixed nuts and stuck them over the sides of each chocolaty square. Unbelievably, I still hadn't finished as I had yet to pipe tiny rosettes over the top of each cake with the remaining butter cream! I'd been dreading this part the most as I'm not very neat!

When I stood back to look at my Chocolatines, I was amazed that they had turned out looking vaguely similar to those in the Baking Bible! I was looking forward to having a taste to see if they tasted as good as they looked. There was no one in sight, so I used my fingers rather than a fork to eat the cake. This was a misjudged idea, as I soon had chocolate all around my mouth and hands. Later I even found some behind my ear!

The sponge wasn't as light as I think it should have been. I wonder if I went wrong using a deep tin rather than the recommended shallow one. The butter cream, as already established was delicious; I could have eaten it straight from the bowl. The nuts on the side gave a great nutty crunch. Combined with the butter cream it reminded me of the outside layer of a Ferroro Rocher!

I don't think my Genoese sponge was quite up to scratch. However, apart from that, I am pleased with how these Chocolatines turned out, although it was rather a lot of effort. It took hours to make and created two lots of washing up! They did taste nice, but for all that time and the aching legs, I want it to be AMAZING!
My attempt at Chocolatines!

Potato Scones

Recipe Number One Hundred & Twenty Six:  Page 324.

I have to admit that I wasn't overly excited at the thought of making and then eating potato scones; the potato aspect put me off! However, I love trying new ideas and recipes, so couldn't help but be intrigued. Mary's recipe is for a sweet scone but she does offer a savoury alternative. I am sure it comes as no surprise that I opted for the sweet version!

There seemed little sense in peeling and cooking a potato or two just for some scones, so I decided we'd have pie and mash for our evening meal. The idea was that I could make the scones with the left over mash. I peeled lots of potatoes and put a pie in the oven. Just before it was time to dish up, I made up some gravy and laid the plates out on the worktop. I opened the oven door to find that the pie was still anaemically pale. I hadn't turned the oven on! I could have cried! The potato and veggies were all ready to go but would have to wait another half an hour. I decided I might as well make the scones whilst I waited.

I resisted the urge to add lots of butter and milk to the potatoes as I imagined it would alter Mary's recipe. I weighed out the mashed potato and was very surprised by how little I actually needed. I left it to cool down whilst I added the plain flour and 3 tsps of baking powder to a mixing bowl. Yes, I really did say 3 tsps!! I rubbed some butter into the flour until it looked similar to a bowl of fine breadcrumbs. As I was making the sweet version, I stirred in a surprisingly small amount of sugar. Now came the exciting part of adding the mashed potato. Mary says to mix it in using a fork to prevent the potato forming lumps. It was hard to avoid lumps and, after a lot of mixing, I gave up caring! The mixture looked a little dry, but this was solved with the addition of some milk. This created a soft dough. It was so easy to knead it on the worktop as it wasn't sticky at all. As it also behaved when I rolled it out, I began to wonder if perhaps potato scones are not so bad after all! I didn't manage to cut out the 12 recommend scones. I barely had enough dough to make eleven and they looked a bit on the thin side. I placed the scones onto several baking trays and then popped them in the oven.

By the time the scones were in the oven, the pie was cooked and ready to come out. I quickly reheated everything else and it was soon dished up and on the table. It was almost as if no drama had occurred!! As the scones only needed 15 minutes in the oven, I had to scoff my dinner which, to be fair, was no real hardship.

I have to admit that I wasn't that happy with the appearance of my potato scones. They weren't exactly pretty. They had risen a little and were a nice even shape. However, they did look very plain! I left them to cool a little. I then sliced one in half and spread a large helping of butter over it. They tasted all right but were rather bland. Mary mentions in the recipe header that they are particularly moist, but I found them to be a little dry. I think a savoury scone might work better, perhaps with some cheese on top. I am pleased to report that I couldn't taste the potato; however Neil said that he could! Overall these scones were a lovely easy bake and a great way of using up left over mashed potato. The flavour wasn't particularly exciting but maybe they could be 'jazzed' up with a tasty jam or marmalade!
Not very exciting!!

Thursday, 1 December 2011

St Clements Muffins

Recipe One Hundred & Twenty Five:  Page 127.

This is the last muffin recipe in the Baking Bible. I've had varying levels of success when making muffins so I admit that I didn't feel particularly disappointed! I like orangey things, so this recipe did sound promising.

After lining my muffin tray with paper cases, I needed to dig out my blender from the depths of a cupboard. It is used now and again for making soups and smoothies. However, it must have been a long time since its last outing as the lid was covered with a decent amount of dust. I brushed it off and cleaned the blender, then set it down on the worktop whilst I chopped up an orange. In the list of ingredients it says to use a thin-skinned orange; it soon became clear that I'd be using all of the fruit. I placed the chunks of orange into the blender. Mary does say to use a food processor, but sadly I do not own such a thing. Now I know why she doesn't mention using a blender; the peel kept getting stuck under the blades. Thankfully, Neil wasn't there to witness me pick up the noisy machine and give it a good shake whilst it was still running!! Foolish or not, it did the trick as the peel ended up being chopped into tiny pieces.

Triumphant, I happily moved on to adding the other ingredients into a mixing bowl. I measured sugar, milk and flour into the bowl. I melted a little butter in the microwave and forgot about it. I was soon reminded when I heard it splattering. I left the boiling hot butter to cool down whilst I wiped the roof of the microwave clean!! Once the butter was cool, I added it to the bowl along with an egg. I grated in the lemon rind and it suddenly dawned on me why the muffins are called St Clements – this of course led to a chorus of Oranges and Lemons!!!

I mixed the runny mixture together carefully with a fork and then gently stirred in the finely chopped orange. Mary mentions that you can either make 24 mini muffins or 12 full size muffins from the mixture; I opted for the 12. I filled the cases as best I could. I was nowhere near close to filling them almost to the top; it barely managed to get to half way. I placed the tray into the oven and left them to cook for about 25 minutes.

I was disappointed when I collected the muffins from the oven as they hadn't bothered to rise much at all! None of them had erupted over the top of the cases; they were all resolutely flat. I placed the pathetic little cakes onto a wire rack to cool. Once cold, I sifted some icing sugar over the top, which at least made the muffins look a little more appealing. However, as with all food, the proof is in the eating; I was of course soon taking a bite. Hmmmm.....I can't say I was really sure what to make of them! The taste of orange peel was quite strong; it wiped out any lemon flavour. The cake texture was surprisingly light and moist. Mum and Neil both agreed that they liked the muffins but that the orange flavour was a little overwhelming. I think if you like mixed peel in cakes, you will love them, but if you don't then maybe this cake isn't for you?!
My small muffins!!