CHILDREN’S BIRTHDAY PARTIES

All my own work!

Here are some I made earlier!….actually they aren’t – these were made by children at one of my cupcake parties! They had a lot of fun and had a go at making and baking biscuits and cupcakes. They  iced and decorated with (a lot) of butter cream, sprinkles, marshmallows, edible glitter, sweets. We had lots of sticky fun, the children had a great time and they picked up some cooking skills along the way.

We had a birthday tea and the birthday girl received a special present from me. All the children took home a box of cakes and biscuits that they had iced and some simple recipes-the verdict:?

From the children ‘When can we come again?’

From the parent ‘That was the most stress free children’s birthday party ever!’

From me ‘Phew, that was hard work but fun but I was really pleased that the children worked so well and had a great time-children love to cook I so it was great to let everyone have a go and they were REALLY good’

It's a serious business icing cupcakes..
It’s a serious business icing cupcakes..

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HOT CROSS BUNS

 

Hot Cross Buns an Easter tradition

 

I am a traditional girl at heart and Hot Cross Buns-made just once every year-are an Easter treat. I love the smell of them baking not to mention eating them straight from the oven smothered with butter or toasted later on.  A good Hot Cross Bun should have a good volume and texture somewhere between a bread roll and fruit loaf. It should be nice and fruity, with a hint of spice,  a shiny glaze and a cross on top that doesn’t fall off. I piped on the cross with a small icing bag and a thick paste of flour and water. I seem to recall that many years ago, in school domestic science lessons, we cut pastry into strips and put these into a cross shape on the top-they always fell off before home time and this piping worked much better.

I found this a tricky make starting off with a Paul Hollywood recipe and a Delia Smith recipe plus my own ideas and tips and attempted to combine them all……………….a recipe for disaster if ever there was one! Too much fruit/not enough fruit/too much kneading/not enough kneading/2 rises or 3 rises/dried yeast/easy blend yeast/oven too hot or too cool/too much salt/too little salt and countless other variables. I have to admit one batch went in the bin and couldn’t be redeemed even with toasting and liberal amounts of apricot jam. As to kneading the dough by hand or using an electric mixer with a dough hook it’s a personal choice and you get good results with both. Plus it was good to do as I was decidedly ‘cross’ after the episode with the poor ones

Why knead the dough?

·        By kneading you develop the gluten in the flour. The mixture is transformed from a ‘shaggy’ looking mix to a smooth and pliable ball. This will give the bread a better, more even texture. By leaving it to ‘prove’ in a warm place the yeast develops and makes the bread rise to give a lighter end result.

·        The technique for kneading is important but it is easily learnt. Use both hands-use the heal of one hand to stretch the dough away from you and then fold it back on its self. Use the other hand to keep turning it and continue stretching, folding and turning for about 8 minutes. The mixture will, quite miraculously, become soft, elastic and smooth. You will need to do this for at least 8 minutes. It is difficult to over knead but stop if it starts to feel heavy.

·        It is quite tiring to do and you can use a free standing, electric mixer with a dough hook. These work well. Personally I enjoy the hand kneading, it is quite therapeutic and good exercise for your arms!

So give these a go and have a Happy Easter

HOT CROSS BUNS

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THE VERY BEST CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

 

The best chocolate brownies

I’m sticking my neck on the line here-the Very Best Chocolate Brownies?  Who does she think she is …well I have been working at this recipe for a number of years and a lot of brownies have been eaten by family and friends-it’s hard for some people.

The brownie world is split into two camps -those that love the more ‘CAKEY’ types of brownies and those that love the  more ‘SQUIDGY’ type. Both have their place in the culinary brownie world but my favourite would have to be the ‘SQUIDGY’. type. To make the ‘CAKEY’ type you have, not surprisingly, a cake type mix but to get the ‘SQUIDGY’ type you are aiming for a batter type mix that easily pours into your tin.

Here are some things to think about before you try these out:

  • Kit matters especially if you are planning to do a lot of baking and investing in the best is a good idea-I’ve lost count of the number of cheaper tins etc that I have thrown out over the years after they have buckled and twisted in the heat. So invest in a sturdy tin they are often called, very helpfully,-brownie pans. I’m not mad keen on the non stick versions, this eventually wears off and where does it go? Yes, it’s in your food. Perhaps I am being a little harsh here as the more modern versions are more durable.
  • Lining the pan is important-you only need to do the base.  I like the re useable ones but if you don’t want to do this use a baking paper with silicone, not just greasproof paper. The higher the sugar content the more your cakes/biscuits/meringues will stick and these brownies have a lot of sugar in them.
  • Take care melting the chocolate-it is very temperamental. On the temperamental scale the easiest to melt is chocolate with a high proportion of chocolate solids eg a good dark chocolate with 70% chocolate solids, the trickiest to melt is white chocolate ( it is not really a chocolate as it doesn’t contain any chocolate solids) and milk chocolate is somewhere in between. I use a microwave, break up the chocolate into pieces and put into a plastic jug-spread them out a bit so they are not just piled in the middle. Microwave this in short bursts on high. Don’t stir it as this can cause it to ‘seize’ up and ruin just turn the jug back and forth until it is melted. Once it starts to melt it will go very quickly-Don’t burn it.

Enjoy making these-VERY BEST CHOCOLATE BROWNIES

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