Nutella Braided Ring

NUTELLA!  Is there anything finer? Nutella smothered over sweet bread?  Got you covered here!  Nutella is one of the finer things in life and I thought it deserved something fun so this Nutella Braided Ring was born! Just look at it! (I kinda want to lick the screen!)

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This recipe uses about half a jar of Nutella.  You may want to push the envelope further and use a whole jar, but don’t!  Bad things will happen!  (Oozing and burning things!)

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It’s a tricky, sticky thing to get right but it tastes amazing, with each fold of bread hugging a ribbon of Nutella to it.  It is the perfect breakfast/afternoon snack type bread, just sweet enough but still nice and filling!

Nutella Braid

Serves 12

250g strong bread flour
1 tsp salt
7g instant yeast
50g unsalted butter
135ml warm milk
1 egg
1/2 jar Nutella (or own brand, who can really tell these days?)

- Take a large mixing bowl and add the flour, then add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other.
– Mix it all together.
– Chop your butter up into little bits and add this along with the milk and egg.
– Get in there with one hand and mix everything together.
– Keep mixing by hand in the bowl.  It will be sticky but keep going and after not too long it will start to come together into a cohesive dough.
– Once you have almost everything as one ball of dough you can turn it out onto a floured worksurface and really start kneading! (There will still be some sticky bits, you can take a small bit of dough and clean round the bowl to mop up stragglers.)
– Keep working it, the trick with a wetter dough is time!
– After about 10 minutes you should have a smooth, elastic dough.
– Place in a clean, oiled bowl, cover and place somewhere sheltered to rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.  I found 2 hours about perfect.
– Prepare your apples.
– Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured worksurface.  Do NOT knock it down.
– Simply start to roll it out with a rolling pin.  You want it to be about 25cm deep and 45cm long.  Try to keep it rectangular.
– Spread the Nutella in a thin layer across the dough, leaving a strip nearest you to seal it together at the end.
– Carefully roll the long end of the dough towards you, keeping the roll quite tight.
– When you have a long roll gently press to seal the dough back to itself.
– Starting about 1″ in from the end cut straight through the dough all the way along to the other end.
– Now for the messy bit!  Twist each half around the other, one over the top, followed by the next, arranging the cut side so it faces uppermost.
– Gently manoeuver onto a baking tray covered in baking parchment and bring each end round to form a circle.  Press the ends together gently to secure.
– Place in a plastic bag (bin bags work well here) and leave in a sheltered spot to rise for another hour.
– Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C.
– Bake for 25 minutes.
– Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire cooling rack.
– Enjoy!

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Filed under Breads, Breakfasts, Cakes, Desserts, Moderately easy

Kitchen Tour

I thought it might be time to share my chaotic little kitchen with you guys.  It’s still a work in progress but this is where I rustle up all of my culinary creations!  I only just had the dishwasher fitted so it’s still all shiny and new!  I was in the middle of a baking frenzy at the point when I took these pics, what can I say, I was being impulsive!

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It’s only a small kitchen, much smaller than my last but with about the same amount of storage when all is said and done, but my goodness have I managed to pack a  lot in!  I will never be accused of minimalism, that’s for sure!

I’ve managed to put my own stamp on what was a terribly uninspired kitchen.  I ADORE the turquoise colour on the walls, as it’s such a small space I really felt I could go for a high impact colour without it getting too overwhelming.  There were these hideous picture tiles dotted about the place but I’ve covered those with some vinyl tiles as re-tiling just isn’t on the cards any time soon!

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Every bit of space is used in this kitchen, I have a lot of gadgets and bakeware and crockery and I swear every bit of it is essential!  One day I will have a proper sort out but I confess I’m a hoarder and that day will not be soon! My favourite new addition (along side the dishwasher) is this handy pull out drawer.  We couldn’t fit a full size dishwasher in because of the depth so ended up with this leftover space that is perfectly filled by this drawer, it’s such a handy space for baking trays etc. that really don’t fit elsewhere!  Another useful item is the large wooden worktop saver that I pop on top of the hob when I am in need of the extra counterspace.  When it is not in use it slides nicely on top of the washing machine for storage.

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My Wall Of Stuff is so handy, I have two rows of pans hanging from the ceiling, then my spice racks, then knives and utensils, all within easy reach and taking up as little space as possible.  The carpet beater lives there because, well, I simply couldn’t fit it anywhere else!  (And it’s very useful indeed when you have a very fluffy dog who hates the hoover!)

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Corner countertops are always a bit of an issue in kitchens, no matter what the size, so I’ve found that a lazy susan makes perfect use of the space, nothing is inaccessible and nothing gets shoved to the back and forgotten about.  It also makes cleaning so much easier as you only have to move one thing rather than loads of small jars etc.

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I want to make a few more improvements, some shelves by the boiler, more under-counter lights and changing the cupboard knobs but first I have to find some I like!  It’s all a work in progress, like any home.

 

So there it is, my messy, cozy kitchen.  It isn’t to everyone’s taste but I love it and spend many happy hours in here messing about coming up with new ideas!

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Melt-In-The-Middle Chocolate Salted Caramel Puddings

I don’t think anyone of my acquaintance can resist those words once seen on a menu.  (If they can then we tend not to remain friends long!) Melt-In-The-Middle is always a good start.  Chocolate, sure fire winner there.  Salted caramel… SOLD!

Melt In The Middle

The best thing is that contrary to everything Masterchef, Great British Bake Off, etc have told you these are actually very easy to make.  Can you mess it up? Yes, as with everything if you’re not paying attention you just get puddings and won’t get the melt in the middle.  But we all know that you’ll be paying attention, right?

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These things are so tempting and delightful that the anticipation won’t let you stray far from the oven for the wonderfully short baking time that they have.  You’ll want to stay close, cooing at them as they rise may be… Oh…  just me then?

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How could you not want to coo at them though? Just looking at them makes me want to dash to the kitchen and whip up a batch.  And that’s the other great thing about them.  You can whip them up as a last minute dessert without any hassle at all.  You can even (if you really really must) just make these as chocolate puddings if you don’t have any toffees in the house… (what kind of house do you live in???)

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Now, if I wanted to go all Bake Off on you I could tell you to make the toffee from scratch and the same with the caramel sauce… but these are supposed to be easy!  If it pleases you, fine, knock yourself out.  But these are a quick, no fuss, high in wow factor dessert just perfect for the recent cold turn the weather has taken.  Ultimate luxury and comfort on a plate!

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Makes 4

100g plain chocolate
100g unsalted butter (plus extra for greasing)
150g golden caster sugar
3 eggs
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
50g flour
1 packet toffee/treacle toffee/soft caramels (not normal Werther’s Originals!)
200ml double cream
sea salt

- Heat the oven to gas mark 6/ 200C.
– Break up/slice up the chocolate and butter into a microwave proof bowl.
– Microwave for about 1 minute until all of the butter and most of the chocolate is melted.
– Stir until the remaining lumps of chocolate have dissolved and the mixture is combined.
– Set aside to cool a little. (I usually do the microwaving bit first then go get all of the other ingredients together.)
– Thoroughly grease 4 ramekin dishes with butter and place on a baking tray for easy maneuverability later.
– In a large jug or bowl thoroughly mix together the eggs, sugar and vanilla with a hand whist.
– Slowly pour in the chocolate mixture to the egg mixture, stirring constantly with your whisk.  If you can pour from a bit of a height so much the better!
– When it is all nicely combined add your flour and mix in.
– Divide the mixture evenly between the buttered ramekins.  The mixture should come just over halfway up.
– Put a toffee in the centre of each pudding.  Just rest it on the top, no need to submerge it.  Add a tiny pinch of sea salt to each toffee.
– Put in the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes.
– Every oven varies so you’re going to have to check them at regular intervals once you get to 10 minutes.  The time between totally molten (puddle of goo) and totally cooked (cake) is not great and you want to hit it right in the middle.  If you can see any shiny cake batter where the cap lifts then they need longer, the edges should be a matt, cooked colour.  There shouldn’t be any obvious wobble, we want a squishy middle, not a squishy everything!  If you poke the top gently the crust should hold but there should be a little bit of movement in it.  If your finger goes through the delicate crust, it’s not done!  It sounds tricky but actually its really easy to eyeball when the edges are cooked enough to hold the pudding together.  If in doubt an extra minute in the oven (with a very close eye) is probably not going to hurt it.
– Remove from the oven and gently run a thin bladed knife around the outside of the pudding to loosen it.  (Remember, sugar burns are not sexy so it’s ok to let these sit for a minute or two before serving but don’t leave them for too long as you want them warm.)
– Put the cream and remaining toffees in a small pan and gently heat until the toffees have melted and the cream is hot.  Mix together well so all of the toffee dissolves and you get a pale caramel sauce.  Add a pinch of sea salt to taste and mix well.  (Can also be done in the microwave but watch the cream, it WILL boil up high!)
– Turn out the puddings carefully onto a plate.  They should slip right out.  You may find the the toffee has sunk to the bottom and a little bit remains behind, just scoop this out and pop it back on top.
– Pour over the caramel sauce to serve.
– Luxuriate!

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Filed under Desserts, Easy, Moderately easy

Meal Planning

These days it just makes sense to Meal Plan.  No matter how large or small your family is you will save so much time and money if you have a plan.  It doesn’t have to be a rigid plan, you can change things as you see fit but I have found over the last year that it really helps me to jot down what I’m eating for the week ahead.  I used to just buy what I fancied but I always ended up buying far too much food for one person and it was wasteful (not to mention seriously damaging to my wallet!)

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Now I can plan around any events I have, if I know I will be late home and tired that day then I make sure I have something ready cooked or easy to prepare.  It helps me realistically look at what I want to cook and eat and decide how that’s going to work out across the week.  Got a good value pack of mince on sale? I can work that into my schedule with enough variation so that I don’t just end up eating spag bol every night for a week!  Got a pack of veg that needs using up? Schedule it in!

I try to sit down and make a plan at the weekend so I can look at what’s in the fridge and start from there, then if I need to I can run out and get anything extra as I need it.  Everyone’s system varies according to their own lives and needs but I thought I should share the printable meal plan I made that I’ve found works best for me.

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It has sections for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a snack (if I’m going to snack I’d rather be in control of it!) as well as charting how many veggies I’m getting and what exercise I plan to do.  It’s all part of keeping a handle on an overall healthier lifestyle and it has really helped me stay in control of my budget and my waistline this past year.  I hope it helps some of you too!

Weekly Meal Planner

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Apple Pie Jam

I am obsessed with all things apples this month!  I love these Discovery apples from my parent’s garden and I want to try to preserve the joy for as long as possible.  Their season is starting to wane now so I thought I’d take some of the worse looking ones and turn them into Jam!

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This jam is a deliberately chunky one as I am hoping to be able to use it to make thinks like jam pies later in the year when I want to remember the gorgeous fragrant flavour of these lovely apples.  It has just a hint of cinnamon in to that end too.  Apples and cinnamon is a brilliant combination but one it took me a while to come round to.  Now I’ve come round I’m a big fan!

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I love the colour of this jam that comes from the pink flesh of the Discovery apple, if you use another apple then it will probably be a much paler colour but I’m sure would still be delicious!

Oh My Apple Pie Jam

 

Makes 6 jars

2 kg peeled and cored apples
1.5kg granulated sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
small knob unsalted butter (* optional)

(0.75kg sugar to 1kg apples)

- Core and peel your apples and slice them roughly, leaving them fairly large, and place them immediately in a large bowl of cold water with lemon juice to stop them from turning brown while you do the rest.
– Drain your apples and weigh them, you want 0.75kg sugar for every 1kg of apples.
– Add the apples to a large, heavy bottomed jam pan.
– Add the sugar and cinnamon.
– I like to add a splash of water to start things off, about 100ml, but that’s because I’m a nervous jam maker!
– Turn up the heat!
– Prepare your jam jars, either by running them through the dishwasher or washing them in hot, soapy water then drying them in the oven on a very low heat.  Lids can be sterilised in boiling water.
– Boil your apples and sugar, the sugar will melt and the apples will start to break down, which is why we kept them quite chunky to begin with.
– Keep boiling for about 50mins-1 hour, stirring frequently to avoid catching but not too vigorously so as to avoid breaking down the apple as it cooks.
– If you have a jam thermometer you want to get it to 104C, Jam temperature.  If you don’t you can see that the bubbles get sort of small and the mixture more slow and gloopy.  It will drip slowly off the spoon.  If you pour a small bit onto a cold saucer and push your finger through it it should wrinkle up.  These are all signs that your jam is done.
– Add the knob of butter and give a good stir round.  (*optional)
– Carefully ladle into your prepared jam jars and seal the lids on tight.  Leave to cool, the lids should sick in so there is no dimple.  If any don’t seal then use these first and keep in the fridge.

Autumn Darcy

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Filed under Gluten Free, Jams and Preserves, Moderately easy

Apple Crown

I am a bit odd when it comes to apples.  I don’t like them.  Except for these apples.  These apples I will eat every day that they are in season and come up with ways to preserve them just a little bit longer.  I love them.  But they are the only ones.  They are the apples from the tree in my parent’s front garden.  These apples are ‘Discovery’ and are an eating apple that does a bang up job of being a cooking apple too.  When ripe they are gorgeously fragrant and the flesh holds a rosy pink blush, which makes these just the prettiest apples ever!

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In this incarnation I have worked them into a sweet braided crown the better to cram as much appley goodness into every bite as I can.  It’s a bit tricky, and some may say overloaded, but no.  More apple = better! The enriched dough makes a perfect vehicle for these lovely chunks of apple and the sticky cinnamon sauce it all creates is a delight!  I’m sure if this were to be presented on Bake Off there would be “Soggy Bottom” comments but I really can’t bring myself to care, the juicy apples and sweet cinnamon are worth a tiny bit of sog!

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If you wanted to you could brush the finished crown with an apricot (or apple jelly!) glaze to make it shine and a drizzle of simple glace icing would make it look lovely too.  Alas, I had run out of icing sugar on this occasion and couldn’t wait to share this recipe with you so you have here the unglazed crown.  Still beautiful in its own way!

Apple Crown

 

Serves 12

250g strong bread flour
1 tsp salt
7g instant yeast
50g unsalted butter
135ml warm milk
1 egg
3 apples, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon (or less if you prefer)
4 tbsp granulated sugar

- Take a large mixing bowl and add the flour, then add the salt to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other.
– Mix it all together.
– Chop your butter up into little bits and add this along with the milk and egg.
– Get in there with one hand and mix everything together.
– Keep mixing by hand in the bowl.  It will be sticky but keep going and after not too long it will start to come together into a cohesive dough.
– Once you have almost everything as one ball of dough you can turn it out onto a floured worksurface and really start kneading! (There will still be some sticky bits, you can take a small bit of dough and clean round the bowl to mop up stragglers.)
– Keep working it, the trick with a wetter dough is time!
– After about 10 minutes you should have a smooth, elastic dough.
– Place in a clean, oiled bowl, cover and place somewhere sheltered to rise for 1-2 hours until doubled in size.  I found 2 hours about perfect.
– Prepare your apples.
– Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured worksurface.  Do NOT knock it down.
– Simply start to roll it out with a rolling pin.  You want it to be about 25cm deep and 45cm long.  Try to keep it rectangular.
– Scatter the surface with 2 tbsp sugar, then the cinnamon, then the apples, then the remaining 2 tbsp sugar.
– Carefully roll the long end of the dough towards you, keeping the apples inside and keeping the roll quite tight.
– When you have a long roll gently press to seal the dough back to itself.
– Starting about 1″ in from the end cut straight through the dough all the way along to the other end.
– Now for the messy bit!  Twist each half around the other, one over the top, followed by the next, arranging the cut side so it faces uppermost.  Shove the apple back in as it falls out!
– Gently manoeuver onto a baking tray covered in baking parchment and bring each end round to form a circle.  Press the ends together gently to secure.
– Place in a plastic bag (bin bags work well here) and leave in a sheltered spot to rise for another hour.
– Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200C.
– Bake for 25 minutes.
– Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray.
– When cool the sticky puddle of sauce in the centre should separate nicely as you peel the baking paper away leaving you with your crown!
– Serve as is or glaze with jam and drizzle with icing, the choice is yours!

 

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Filed under Breads, Cakes, Christmas, Desserts, Moderately easy

Banana Birthday Cake For Dogs

It’s Frodo’s 6th Birthday today!

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To celebrate I bought him a new squeaky toy, humiliated him by making him wear a hat and baked him a birthday cake!

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I think it tastes bland and rubbish but the dogs loved it! It’s got no sugar in other than that from the banana so no worries about rotting their teeth, the flour is whole wheat but if your dog has allergies then you could swap to a spelt flour, brown rice flour or a gluten free mix if necessary.

Banana Cake

Ordinarily I would ice this with peanut buttercream but sadly Darcy does not like peanut butter (first dog of my acquaintance who doesn’t!) so a cream cheese frosting was an excellent substitute!

Serves 4-6 dogs (Or probably just one great dane!)

2 ripe bananas
1 egg
1/4 cup sunflower oil
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tap baking powder
2 tbsp milk
200g cream cheese
125g Greek yogurt (good thick stuff!)
Dog treats to decorate

- Preheat the oven to gas mark 5/190C.
– grease and line the base of 3 x 4″ mini cake tins.
– Mash up the bananas, egg and oil in a bowl or large jug.
– Add the flour and baking powder and mix until combined.
– Add the milk and mix through until you have a smoothish batter (banana lumps are fine, flour lumps are bad!)
– Divide the mixture equally between the 3 tins.
– Bake for 30 minutes. Depending on how moist your bananas were this may need a little longer. When a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean and the cake has no wobble to it it’s done!
– Remove from the tins and leave to cool on a wire rack.
– In a small bowl mix together the cream cheese and Greek yogurt together.
– When completely cool spread the layers with cream cheese and stack into a cake, spreading frosting round the outside too.
– Decorate as you wish with dog friendly treats!

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Filed under Cakes, Dog Friendly, Easy