Monday, 26 February 2018

Cocoa and Coconut Energy Balls

As I read yet another article on the benefits of a good nights sleep, I can't help but think how the chances of me achieving a glorious eight hours of peaceful shut-eye are as likely as the train network running to time (or even at all) in the arctic conditions forecast for this week. 

The last two and half years have been sponsored by caffeine. I am singlehandedly keeping our local coffee shop afloat. Since being back at work I’ve no need to set an alarm clock; the baby has that job between 0430 and 0500 every morning (and always nearer for 0400 on a Sunday).  If another someone says ‘ohh my child has slept through since they were two days old, twelve hours a night GUARANTEED, aren’t I lucky?!’ I cannot be accountable for my actions. 

I have read every book about infant sleep, tried every technique, bought every gadget and gizmo to lull the children into blissful slumber. White noise, massage, stories, light shows, hard core drugs*... I know every excuse for why they don’t sleep and every reason why they really do need to. I'd go as far as saying my specialist subject on mastermind would be surviving two sleep thieves. Except I could never actually go on the programme as the chair looks far too comfortable and I’d have fallen fast asleep by the time the general knowledge questions are asked.

One way of surviving chronic sleep deprivation is enjoying one of these energy balls, a tasty start to each (super early) morning and full of healthy ingredients too.

* Not really, but tempting. Oh so very tempting. 

PS This was written at 0450am. 

Cocoa and Coconut Energy Balls

Makes 18-24

175g cashew nuts
175g pitted Medjool dates
35g cocoa powder
2 tbsps cashew-coconut butter
1 tbsp ground flaxseed
50g desiccated coconut

1. In a large food processor, whizz the cashew nuts until they resemble a super fine powder
2. Add in the dates, cocoa powder, nut butter and flaxseed and blitz again for a good minute or two until thoroughly combined into a paste
3. Either using a couple of teaspoons or your bare hands form the paste into ping-pong sized balls
4. Roll each ball in the coconut
5. Pop in the fridge for at least a couple of hours to chill

Baker's notes...
  • I find these are best enjoyed chilled and store them in the fridge, they last for up to ten days in an airtight container
  • The flaxseed is optional but apparently it has loads of fab health properties 

Saturday, 17 February 2018

Pregnancy baking: The best bakes to make in early labour

Don't get me wrong, giving birth to approximately seven and half bags of sugar in one fell push is not exactly a walk in the park. However, in those early stages, when you spend half the time manically googling 'how do I know if I am in labour?' and the other half of the time triple-checking the car is pointing in the correct direction of the hospital, it is rather nice to have something else to occupy an increasingly impatient, restless mind. All the pregnancy books and webpages suggest distraction, such as going for a walk, watching a film but I reckon popping on a pinny could be an alternative.

To reach the dizzy heights of the top of this chart, the bake had to meet three very strict criteria: firstly to be straightforward and simple, secondly to not require any fancy-pants ingredients that may involve schelpping to the supermarket, risking waters breaking in the World Foods aisle and thirdly to be a darn tasty alternative to necking lucazade.

5. Microwave Mug Cake
Should labour turn out to be a movie-style 30 minutes of turning a little red, puffing a few times and then whoosh, out pops your bundle of joy as though the stork does actually exist, then this one is for you. Microwave Mug Cakes had a bit of a thing going on a couple of years ago and there are some rather tasty recipes out there that literally take minutes

4. Welsh Cakes
The process of rubbing the fat into the flour will distract from those twinges/aches/bl**dy agonizing pains plus they last up to a week when stored in a airtight container so a perfect thank you for the midwives or early visitors who want a cuddle with your newborn moppet

3. Flapjacks
Because oats sound healthy and giving of energy to last way into the third stage of labour (there are three stages?! What is this? A particularly lengthy Shakespearean play?). Also fuss-free and pretty foolproof, they are the homely bake you can envisage doing with your baby in a couple of years time (before the reality of sleep deprivation kicks in and you realise the cafe down the road serves perfectly edible versions you can palm off as your own)

2. Chocolate and HoneyComb Peace Cookies
The only reason these have made the list, apart from the fact they are mightily, marvelously delicious biscuits, is the name. In a world of political turmoil and economic uncertainty, I may not guarantee you'll be welcoming your little one into a world of peace and serenity by baking these cookies, but they do make the world taste that bit sweeter.

1. Tiffin (aka Chocolate Refrigerator Cake)
You don't even need to turn the oven on. Plus chocolate is good for the heart, the circulation, is mineral rich and is the ultimate comfort food. But more importantly than all of that, a Finnish study found chocolate in pregnancy keeps the baby happy. And we all want to keep our babies happy, no?

What do you reckon? What have you baked in those early stages of labour?

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

Homemade 'Nakd' Bar Bakewell Tart

Ah January, you sanctimonious, tedious, thirty one days you.

Dragging along slower than the Brexit negotiations with it's cold, dull grey skies and worst of all, having joined the January healthy eating bandwagon, biscuit and cake-less.

A few years back I was merrily baking my way through the month, rather smugly disdainful of all those extra gym memberships, slimming club join-ups and dry January bores that a New Year encourages. And yet, two children and considerable overindulgence at Christmas later*, I too (somewhat reluctantly) can be found at the gym at 8am on a Sunday morning, series-recording Tom Kerridge's weight loss programme and grudgingly giving up cake.

Roll on 1st February when I intend to make the biggest chocolate cake EVER. One that even Bruce Bogtrotter would struggle with.

But in the meantime I'm striving to satisfy my sweet tooth through considerable consumption of Nakd bars, fruit and nut wholefood bars that taste pretty darn good. They come in many various flavours- so much so my husband suggested they ought to make a 'Michelin Star Dinner with Paired Wines' version, which would have definitely cheered up his January.

*By the 31st December I was 85% mince pie and 15% purple Quality Street.

Homemade 'Nakd' Bar: Bakewell Tart

143g cashew nuts
200g Medjool dates (stones removed)
65g raisins
0.5tsp almond extract

1. Line a baking tray with clingfilm
2. In a large food processor whizz the cashews until they resemble a super fine powder.
3. Add the dates, raisins and almond and continue to whizz until the ingredients come together in a thick paste
4. Spoon the mixture into the baking tin and press down evenly with the back the spoon to form a large bar approximately 4-5 inches in length
5. Refrigerate for 60 minutes, remove the clingfilm and cut into bars

Baker's notes...

  • A big thank you to the Little Loaf blog for the inspiration to make these at home 
  • They keep for up to five days in the fridge (and taste really nice chilled)

Monday, 15 January 2018

The What Kate Baked...and Baby Guide to Returning to Work after Maternity Leave:

The dream: a glorious morning latte and read of the papers on the way to work. The reality: 'Gagh-we're-late-no-where-to-park-outside-nursery-have-I-remembered-everything-be-nice-to-your-brother' on repeat

To coincide with my return to work (and not just work, a new job at that) this week after a glorious, sleep deprived maternity leave with the second-born apple of my eye, I give you The What Kate Baked...and Baby Guide to Returning to Work after Maternity Leave

1. You will inevitably rock up with some type of baby bodily fluid on your neatly ironed work clothes. A snail-like trail of snot on your shoulder at best, the worst I will leave up to the imagination...

2. You may not have the latest office gossip, know the deli round the corner now does fancy-pants Veganuary Coconut Milk lattes but you do know the local leisure centre's softplay schedule backwards and do a mean Amanda Karmel Hidden Vegetable Sauce*

*NB: the kids always know. Of course they know you've tried to shoehorn about a zillion vegetables into a sauce. They just eat the pasta around it.

3. The week you are due to return to work you child will, of course, come down with chicken pox/forget how to sleep*/contract a perfectly harmless but highly contagious rash that means s/he can't possible go to nursery

* if you've been lucky enough to get one that does sleep in the first place that is.

4. You will have sleepless nights over the fact your sleep deprived baby brain will have forgotten absolutely every single aspect of your job... yet within seconds of walking through the door, it's as though you never gave birth to the light of your life and maternity leave never happened.

5. After dropping off the kids at childcare, you have a mild panic everytime you look in the rearview mirror and your child isn't there ... before you remember where they are. In a similar vein, you listen to your child's nursery rhymes CD the entire route to work before remembering you can now enjoy Radio 2/Clean Bandit's latest offering/a self-improvement mindfulness podcast

6. It slowly comes back to you that tea is supposed to be served hot, toilet trips are generally taken by oneself and biscuits don't need to be shared

But on a slightly less tongue-in-cheek note, for anyone returning to work soon, all the very best of luck, it will be hard, emotional leaving your little one and a bit of a juggle but it'll all be ok. At least that'd what I'm telling myself while I enjoy my last cold tea and singalong of Wheels on the Bus at rhymetime. 

Sunday, 31 December 2017

Happy New Year: Baking Trends 2018!

Image result for happy new year 2018

Happy New Year!

With a brand new, shiny and sparkling 365 days ahead, it's high time to publish my traditional-trawl-through-the-interweb-for-vaguely-new baking trends! 

The fourth meal

According to Waitrose (my happy place), 'the fourth meal' is whereby people (who are these people?) try and squeeze a fourth meal into their day. Nought wrong with that. Especially if its a giant slab of chocolate cake.


Your local florist will be doing a little joyful skip at midnight tonight as flowers in food are (according to Mystic Meg*) a big trend for 2018. Roses, elderflower, violet and lavender will decorate and infuse everything from ice cream to puddings to cakes

*what on earth happened to Mystic Meg? *distracts self on wikipedia for ten whole minutes*

Pink toast

Ha- I love this one. In an attempt to reverse declining bread sales, M&S have developed some rather healthy funky bread, including beetroot (pink bread), courgette and red pepper. Conversations over lunchtime sarnies won't be the same again ('what on earth is wrong with your bread Keith?' etc etc)

Vegan desserts

With pinterest recording a 329% increase in searches for vegan desserts and veganism the 'fastest growing lifestyle movement' ditch the double cream and butter for 2018. You could even start today by joining the estimated 150,000 people for Veganuary


Tied in with the increased interest in vegan and plant based foods, herbs are apparently back (but where they went to in the first place?).

Cake for breakfast

Well, helllllooooo here's a trend I will happily welcome into my life in 2018. Apparently cake tastes better in the morning and 'provides more time to work off the indulgence'. Suddenly, 2018 isn't looking that bad after all...

Happy New Year y'all xx

Rudolph Cupcakes

This is the first year that the toddler has really 'got' Christmas. At 2.5 years, mainly through the medium of Peppa Pig's 'Christmas' book, Christmas is more than just eating lots of brightly coloured festive wrapping paper as it was last year (the year before she mostly slept through the big day whilst dressed in various 'My First Christmas' paraphenalia).

We've met Santa (twice; surprisingly he turns out to not be that busy this time of year), been required to redecorate the tree on several occasions, reiterated every morning that we only open ONE window on the advent calendar each day and firmly established that all she wants for Christmas is a pair of yellow trousers.

We've also been busy in the kitchen. In the toddler's Peppa Pig magazine there was a recipe for Rudolph cupcakes and I was instantly instructed 'MAMA MAKE!'. The toddler took on the role of executive chef, which mainly involved carefully studying my efforts to ensure they exactly replicated those in the magazine. To be honest, at best these look 'rustic', at worse, they look as though I consumed an entire vat of mulled wine before switching the oven on.

But hey, to completely misquote the best festive movie of all time (ahem, Love Actually) if you can't bake shoddy Rudolph cupcakes for your daughter at Christmas, when can you?

Merry Christmas all you lovely people.

Rudolph Cupcakes

Makes 12

For the cakes:
110g softened butter
110g caster sugar
2 free range eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g self raising flour
1 tbsp milk

For the decoration:
100g milk chocolate
200ml double cream
24 giant white chocolate buttons
A dozen pretzels
12 mini digestive or jaffa cake biscuits
6 glace cherries, halved

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Line a 12 hold muffin tin with paper cases
2. Beat together the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy. Gradually add the egg and stir in the vanilla
3. Fold in the flour with a large metal spoon. Add a little of the milk untila  dropping consistency is acheived
4. Spoon the mixture into the paper cases, ensure each case is approximately half full
5. Bake for 15 minutes or until risen and golden brown. Set aside to cool for ten minutes then remove from the tin and allow to completely cool on a wire rack
6. To make the chocolate icing: Melt the chocolate and double cream in a small pyrex bowl suspended over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until completely melted
7. After reserving 1 tbsp of icing, gently spoon the chocolate icing over each cupcake and allow to set.
8. Place two white chocolate buttons as eyes on each cupcake and stick the pretzels on as antlers. Place a mini digestive biscuits on each cupcake and using leftover chocolate icing, 'stick' a cherry red nose to each biscuit
9. Pipe a little of the chocolate icing on each white chocolate button as eyes

Baker's notes

  • Happy Christmas!

Friday, 15 December 2017

Christmas Spiced Chocolate Cake

My enormous apologies for the terrible photo; rather a lot of prosecco was consumed before any photos were taken!

There are just a million opportunities for satisfying a sweet tooth this time of year.

Advent calendar chocolates for breakfast? Tick. Free sample of stollen in the local supermarket? Sure. Mince pie for elevenses? Of course. Leftover coffee creams that no one wants in the office Roses tin? Gimmee. Mini chocolate logs for afternoon tea? Yes please.

So a fruit salad for dessert at this time of year simply won't do. Nope. Nada. No chance. When I offered to make a pudding for a big Christmas weekend away with friends Nigella came to the rescue. Well, not literally. Although it was the big snow weekend when all of society stopped so if Nigella had popped by with a 4x4 and a tow bar, she would have been most welcome.

This glorious Chocolate Spiced Christmas cake was a huge hit and a lovely straightforward recipe. The only change I made to the original recipe was to add plenty of sparkly gold stars (as I'm pretty sure the song went 'may your cakes be merry and bright').

Merry Christmas! x