Taking a little break…..

So as life would have it, I’m super busy at the moment, and because of my lack of posts recently, I wanted to explain.

I graduated early 2014 with a Sociology degree from the University of Birmingham. I was super happy that I managed it, as in my final year, after batch after batch of tonsillitis, I had something called CMV (weird kinda strain of glandular fever) which hit me really hard. I was referred to a haematology and oncology specialist who was absolutely lovely and made me feel so much better, pyschologically if not physically. I had some blood transfusions and I seemed to be on the mend, although I still have really really tired days.

So after all that I decided to go travelling. First stop was Argentina, passing through Chile and Bolivia and finishing in Peru. Next was the Yasawa islands in Fiji, and finally a tour through the north island of New Zealand. I came back home feeling exhilarated and ready for my next adventure, whatever that may be.

The problem was I had no clue what I wanted to do. I’d always had an inkling that I might like nursing. With my boyfriend and his bowel problems, my Mom and her fibromyalgia, my Nan having alzheimer’s and my brother having high functioning autism, I’ve always felt that I’ve been pushed into caring roles, which I find challenging but so so worthwhile and meaningful.

It’s taken me 9 months to have enough belief and encouragement to follow this somewhat dream…. yes, I suppose it is a dream!

So I am currently looking at universities (this feels so surreal) in the hope of studying nursing, whether that be at an undergraduate or postgraduate level. I am also working as a health care assistant in a care home, which is sapping so much of my time and energy, that baking and food is taking a little bit of a back burner at the moment.

Do not fear, I’m still baking my classics on a weekly basis, but the experiments and complicated bakes are not on my priority list.

So what I am attempting to express, is that I am taking a little break from the blog, however I didn’t want to just disappear and stop posting without any explanation.

So there’s my explanation!

Thank you for those who have become regulars, I will still be scrolling through your yummy recipes and posts, and may or may not, post every now and then, just to let ya’ll know I’m still alive.

Wish me luck!

🙂

xxx

Hazelnut, Pear & Sticky Toffee Tart

So along with the apple picking and autumnal weather, it also seems to be pear season. I’m not the biggest fan of pears, especially cooked pears. I’m also not the biggest fan of nuts. Or dates for that matter.

Want to know the weird thing? I absolutely LOVED this tart.

Like, seriously, seriously, loved it.

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The soft, crumbly pastry was so sweet and tasty. The warm, moist pears were to die for. And the actual filling was just on another level; the flavours and texture were simply incredible. I will most definitely be baking this one again.

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Don’t even get me started on the toffee sauce. I have my own standard recipe that I use, and it’s always been simple and yummy. Yet the double cream in this recipe completely transforms it.

I love love love sticky toffee pudding (recipe can be found here) and it’s definitely a classic. But if you want something slightly different, a pastry pudding full of flavour and texture, this one’s your man. Or woman. Can a tart have a gender?! (gosh this is taking me back to Uni days and writing my dissertation on gender difference)

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So…. Go bake this…. Now…. Seriously…. Can you tell I’m now passionate about pears, nuts and dates?!

Good ol’ Paul Hollywood, thanks for this one!

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Hazelnut, Pear & Sticky Toffee Tart (serves 8)

                      For the pastry:                     

200g plain flour

2 tbsp icing sugar

100g unsalted butter

1 egg, lightly beaten

1 tsp lemon juice

2 tbsp very cold water

For the filling:

150g stoned dates, roughly chopped

150ml milk

3 ripe pears

50g unsalted butter, softened

1 tsp vanilla extract

100g plain flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

50g ground almonds

2 eggs

100g light muscovado sugar

2 tbsp black treacle

75g shelled cobnuts or hazelnuts, roughly chopped

For the toffee sauce:

200g light muscovado sugar

50g unsalted butter

250ml double cream

  1. To make the pastry: mix the flour and icing sugar together in a bowl. Add the diced butter and rub it in with your fingertips until the mixture looks like fine breadcrumbs
  2. Mix the egg with the lemon juice and water. Make a well in the centre of the flour mixture and pour in the egg mix. Using one hand, work the liquid into the flour to bring the pastry together. If it seems too dry, add a splash more water. When the dough begins to stick together, gently knead it into a ball. Wrap in cling film and rest in the fridge for at least 15 minutes
  3. For the filling: put the chopped dates and milk in a pan. Bring to the boil, and then set aside for 30 minutes to soak
  4. To make the toffee sauce: heat the sugar, butter and cream together in a pan over a low heat until melted and smooth, then bring to a simmer and let bubble for 5 minutes to thicken. Leave to cool
  5. Heat your oven to 180°C and have ready a 25cm loose-based fluted tart tin
  6. Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and use it to line the tart tin. Prick the base with a fork. Peel, quarter and core the pears; slice each quarter in two. Arrange in a circular pattern in the tart case. Drizzle over about 3/4 of the toffee sauce and place in the fridge while you prepare the rest of the filling
  7. Mash the date mixture to a coarse purée with a potato masher. Tip it into a bowl with the softened butter, vanilla, flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground almonds, eggs, sugar and treacle. Whisk together with an electric whisk until just combined. Stir in the chopped nuts
  8. Spoon the date and nut mixture over the pears in the pastry case, spreading it out evenly. Bake the tart on the hot baking tray for 40 minutes, until the filling is well risen and browned. Leave to stand for 10 minutes before removing from the tin
  9. Serve the tart warm, with clotted cream or ice cream and the rest of the toffee sauce.
  10. ENJOY!

Pork, Apple & Cider Pie

It’s been apple picking season for us this past week or so. We’ve got delicious Reverend W Wilks and Worcester Pearmains. They smell so lovely and sweet, fresh off the trees. There’s nothing quite like waking up early, the air is starting to get a little crisp, the field is misty and the apples are ready to cook with.

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Watch out for more apple related posts!

A few dinners ago I decided on a pork, apple and cider pie; autumn is upon us! Shoulder is particularly tasty, and with the apple and cider, this pie is so so so simple yet so flavoursome. It’s sweet homely aromas filled the kitchen, the mash and greens complementing the pie perfectly.

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 The cider pastry recipe is particularly scrummy, and might just have made it into my favourite pastry bakes.

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And what’s better than using your own apples in a yummy pie for dinner hey?!

ENJOY! 🙂

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Pork, Apple & Cider Pie (serves 4)

For the cider pastry:

1 egg, beaten

125ml dry cider

125ml olive oil

1 tsp baking powder

Pinch of salt

375g plain flour

1 egg, to glaze

For the filling: 

1 tbsp

1 sweet onion

2 celery sticks, de-stringed and chopped

500g pork shoulder

2 tbsp plain flour

175ml dry cider

1 cooking apple (about 150g) peeled, cored and sliced

2 eating apples (about 250g) peeled, cored and sliced

4 sage leaves

Salt and pepper to season

  1. To make the pastry: beat the egg in a large bowl with the cider, olive oil, baking powder and salt. Slowly mix in the flour until you have a soft dough (you may not need all the flour) Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to cool in the fridge for around 45 minutes
  2. To make the filling: Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and celery and cook for around 5 minutes, until soft. Remove the vegetables from the pan
  3. Add a little more oil and increase the heat to medium-high. Brown the pork well on all sides. Turn the heat down a little and return the vegetables to the pan. Sprinkle the flour over the ingredients and cook for 1 minute. Gradually add the cider and stock, stirring so the flour is absorbed. Add the apples and sage. Bring to the boil and reduce the heat, simmering for around 45 minutes, until the pork is tender. Taste the sauce and season to taste
  4. Heat your oven to 200 degrees and position a pie funnel in the middle of your pie dish
  5. Spoon the filling into the dish. On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry and lift the pasty sheet over the pie, pressing down the edges to seal (I usually find sticking strips of pastry around the rim helps keep the sheet in place). Crimp the edges and decorate with pastry leaves and berries
  6. Brush the lid with a beaten egg and bake for around 35 minutes, until golden and crisp
  7. Serve with mash and greens 🙂

Banana Doughnuts with a Chocolate Glaze

Yes I am back on the doughnut baking hype!

I’m up against a busy few weeks of work, thus on my day off today, what do I think of baking…. but of course, doughnuts!

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Today I wanted simple, plain, good ol’ doughnuts with a nice shiny chocolatey glaze. Obviously I had to include bananas, because, why not?! The addition of buttermilk gives them that all too lovely twang, yet the sweetness of the bananas and brown sugar creates the yummiest of combinations.

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These are soooooo scrummy we pretty much ate the whole lot in one sitting… we weren’t actually sitting…. we were all standing around the doughnut pan…. there’s nothing quite like a warm doughnut with a chocolate glaze fresh out the oven.

Enjoy ❤

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Banana Doughnuts with a Chocolate Glaze (makes around 8)

125g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

¼ tsp bicarbonate of soda

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp cinnamon

Pinch of salt

1 egg

65g light brown sugar

60g unsalted butter, melted

2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp/30ml buttermilk

For the glaze:

100g dark or milk chocolate

1 tbsp rapeseed oil

1 tbsp golden syrup

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees and spray your doughnut pan with non-stick spray
  2. Whisk the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, cinnamon, salt and nutmeg in a medium bowl
  3. Whisk the egg and sugar together until smooth. Whisk in the melted butter, mashed bananas, vanilla extract and buttermilk, until fully combined
  4. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined, be careful not to overmix, otherwise the doughnuts will be too dense
  5. Spoon the mixture into your doughnut pan, or use a piping bag (whichever you prefer)
  6. Bake for around 8 minutes or so, until they have browned a little. Remove from the pan and allow to cool slightly before glazing
  7. To make the chocolate glaze: melt the chocolate, oil and golden syrup in a pan over a low heat. Dip the doughnuts into the chocolate glaze and sprinkle over pretty much anything you want (I left mine plain because I was in a plain mood 😉 )
  8. I find that they are best eaten on the same day, but if you don’t quite manage that, you can pop them in the microwave for a few seconds to soften and warm up!

*inspired by sallysbakingaddiction*

My Favourite Banana Bread [with nutella this time]

It was a banana bread kind of day today. I had 4 bananas hanging on my banana tree looking very very bruised and sorry for themselves; now they are very very mashed and happy in my bread!

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I loooooooooooove this recipe and make it all the time, but today was special, because I dolloped a load of nutella in the middle. You can add pretty much whatever you want (or keep it plain and simple with no “swirl”).

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It was too good today, thus I had to share.

Click here for the full recipe and instructions in my previous post….

ENJOY ❤

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Blueberry & Oat Doughnuts

Owning a doughnut pan is a very very risky business. I feel as though it is possible I may have gained at the very least half a stone in weight – simply from doughnuts.

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So to make myself feel very slightly better, I made up a rather healthy and rather tasty recipe! I’ve had some applesauce in my fridge for a while and have been meaning to put it to good use. If you don’t have any in the cupboard, yogurt could be another good healthy substitution for the ‘fat’. I love the addition of blueberries, spilling and bubbling over the top, creating a sweet and subtle flavour. The applesauce is quite tangy, and it’s not everyone’s cup-o’-tea, but I kinda like it!

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Considering these are so so low in calorie and still considerably satisfying when you simply need “a bit of scran” (don’t you just love British slang), they definitely stand alongside my insanely healthy flapjacks!

The fact that you still feel as though you are holding a doughnut (oh that wondrous and godly shaped treat) basically makes you love them either way. Who doesn’t love a doughnut?!

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Enjoy! ❤

Blueberry & Oat Doughnuts (makes 6)

50g rolled oats

30g plain flour

1 tbsp soft brown sugar

½ tsp cinnamon

1 tsp baking powder

2 tbsp applesauce

60ml soya milk

1 tsp vanilla extract

Handful fresh blueberries

  1. Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and spray your doughnut pan with non-stick spray
  2. Mix your dry ingredients together and then pour in the wet. Gently fold in the blueberries until fully combined
  3. Pipe or spoon into your tin (whichever you find easiest) and bake for around 15 minutes
  4. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack

Quintessentially British Buttermilk Scones

Everyone seems to rave about using buttermilk in scones. I regularly bake scones; plain, fruity, sweet, savory, and so on. They are quintessentially British, and nothing seems better than a cream tea (check out my classic recipe here). When you become a regular scone baker (it’s not that hard – you’ll get addicted) you suddenly transform into a scone freak; I’m talking getting the perfect amount of raising agent, right amount of golden colouring, perfect combination of light yet somehow thick, creamy texture, with a sweet but not overwhelming flavour.
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But very rarely do I use buttermilk to achieve this. Mainly because I like my favourite recipes, so why branch out and use another, when I know I can rely on my trusty, classic, traditional, simple, sturdy, good ol’ scone recipe..? (here it is if you haven’t already found it 😉 )
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I branched out. I did it. I went there. I was pleasantly surprised – these were super moist and super thick. Very different to my classic recipe, and I’m still not sure I prefer using buttermilk, I suppose it depends on preference (using buttermilk gives them a bit of a twang – a good twang – and also a rich density which doesn’t suit everyone).
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Of course I added strawberries at a last attempt to claim summer before it leaves us here in England. Not quite as fresh as in June/July, but still pretty scrummy! Especially with my homemade jam – Plum this time – new obsession along with the doughnut panJAM MAKING! Recipes (for the jams) are still being put together and tweaked, each batch seems to turn out slightly more runny or slightly more solid than the last, I’m slowly (very slowly) learning the art!
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Enjoy ❤
P.S. I can’t believe it’s September tomorrow…. where did the summer go?!
Buttermilk Scones (makes around 15)
450g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
75g unsalted butter, cubed
75g caster sugar
100g sultanas/raspberries/strawberries etc
2 eggs, beaten
1x 200ml buttermilk (or 200ml milk & 1tbsp lemon juice)
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees and lightly grease your baking trays
2. Mix the flour and baking powder, then rub (using your fingertips) the butter in, until it resembles fine breadcrumbs
3. Stir in the sugar and any fruit you wish to add. Mix the eggs and buttermilk together in a jug and pour into the breadcrumb mixture (saving a little for later)
4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, lightly kneading for 1 minute until it gathers together
5. Roll and pat out, cutting as many rounds as possible from the first rolling (I used a 2 inch cutter) Keep rolling out until you have used up all the dough
6. Brush the tops of the scones with the reserved egg and bake for around 10 minutes or until golden
7. Remove and cool on a wire rack – serve with clotted cream and jam, with a cup of Yorkshire tea!