Sunday, 29 April 2018

Raspberry and Almond Loaf Cake



Last weekend was the London Marathon, 26.2 grueling miles through our capital city snd today the inaugural Newport marathon, closer to home here in Wales. I am full of admiration for all those who take part, who spend long, dark winter evenings training, raising millions of cash each year for charity and risk losing at least a couple of toenails in the process (all together now: ewwwwwww). I'm more likely to celebrate a lottery win than celebrate completing a marathon (the only exception would be eating an inedible, long-lost Snickers bar from 1990, which of course was formerly known as a Marathon).

Even the thought of the ‘wine’ marathon where participants enjoy a boozy run with wine and oyster stops dotted throughout the race doesn’t inspire me to run 26.2 miles. But then I read about the ‘Piece of Cake’ Marathon. Held each year in Shropshire I’m imagining a race involving at least a cake stop every half a mile, getting increasingly tastier the more miles you run. After custard creams dunked in builder’s tea at the first half a mile participants surely progress to a giant slab of the gooiest chocolate brownies by mile five, working their way up to intricate, award winning Parisian patisseries by twenty miles and an enormous afternoon tea by the finishing line. If you get to the finish line that is; you may well have collapsed in a diabetic coma well before before the half way mark. But on further investigation it appears the ‘Piece of Cake’ marathon is, well, anything but. Apart from finishing in a National Trust tearoom, there is not a single crumb of cake offered on the entire route. Even the finest National Trust scone, jam and cream offering wouldn't tempt me; trading standards officers, I think you have your next case to investigate.

So it’s no to a marathon for me; I’m sticking to my gone-off snickers thank you very much.



Raspberry and Almond Loaf Cake

75ml olive oil
125g full-fat natural yoghurt
150g golden caster sugar
2 large eggs
1 tsp almond extract
210g plain flour
1½ tsp baking powder
150g raspberries
50g icing sugar

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Grease and line a 900g loaf tin with parchment paper
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, yoghurt, sugar, eggs and almond extract. In a separate bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder and salt. Pour the dry ingredients into the oil-yoghurt mixture and fold the lot very gently together, taking care not to over mix. Add in the raspberries, reserving a few for decoration.
  3. Pour the batter into the loaf tin and bake for 50-55 minutes, or until a small skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean.
  4. To make the icing,sieve the icing sugar into a large bowl and add enough water to create a smooth icing. Pour over the cake and add a few raspberries to decorate

Bakers notes

  • Is this the easiest cake ever? Certainly a great deal easier than running a marathon
  • The raspberries can be replaced by blueberries and the cake would be delish with a dollop of creme fraiche
  • Store in a airtight container and enjoy within a couple of days


Wednesday, 28 March 2018

Spiced Easter Chick Biscuits



You should be staring at a perfect Easter-themed photo of a luscious lemon pavlova, complete with copious folds of thick double cream and decorated with a mountain of decadent mini eggs. Imagine reading glowing prose describing this egg-cellent* Easter centrepiece and bookmarking the page for your celebrations.

However, I forgot to buy lemons and in a very un-Lent-like indulgent evening I devoured every single one of the Mini Eggs (just doing my best, trying to live up to the blog strap-line natch). On a side note, why do the yellow ones taste the best? They are the Spring-time equivalent of orange smarties and the maltesers in boxes of Heros.

So instead, I present to you these Easter Chick Biscuits. Perfect for dunking into a hot cuppa when sheltering from the inevitably terrible bank holiday weather muttering grumpily that the novelty of snow has worn off so much that we aren’t even entertaining the thought of excitedly retrieving the sledges from the shed this time round. And, ahem, these biscuits are also perfect for when you’ve greedily devoured all the ingredients intended for your first bake.

Feel free to add your own slightly-robotic looking decorative Easter bunnies.

*an Easter blog would not be complete without at least one Easter pun. Believe me, I’ve been very restrained this year.



Easter Chick Biscuits
(makes 15-18)

100g softened butter
75g caster sugar
1 large egg yolk
200g plain flour
1 tsp mixed spice
Zest 1 lemon
50g currants 
1 tbsp milk, optional

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line two baking trays with baking parchment
2. Beat together the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Beat in the egg
3. Sieve the flour, add in the mixed spice and lemon zest and bring together, using your hands, to form a soft dough. Add a tbsp of milk if needed
4. Stir in the currants and knead the dough on a floured surface. Roll out the biscuit dough to a thickness of approx a quarter inch. Using an Easter-themed biscuit cutter, cut out the biscuits
5. Place the biscuits on the baking trays and bake for 12-15 min

Baker's notes...
  • Store the biscuits in an airtight container for up to three days
  • Happy Easter!

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.

Flowers

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

Herbs

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