Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Crafting - Christmas gift tags

So, this is my first ever attempt at making my own gift tags (or my own anything for that matter, I'm not too creative when it comes to arty things) and I'm really happy with them! Granted they are really simple, in fact my five year old could have probably made a nice job of them. I bought the stamps from Stampendous, if you like them they're here
I'm from the UK so found them on Ebay, along with the ink. I decided to make them all into Rudolph and add little 2mm red crystal noses, here's a close up.

 I put a small amount of detail on the backs too, like these

I'm planning on wrapping my gifts in brown paper with embellishments this year, I'm so excited!

How are you wrapping yours? Do any of you crafty people think my tags could do with something more, or is it enough as it is?

Friday, 12 November 2010


I love profiteroles, even though they are a bit of a stereotypical 80's dessert - anyway everything goes in cycles and comes back in fashion, right?! So, I'm bringing profiteroles back, here's my recipe.

For the choux pastry
60g unsalted butter
2 tsp caster sugar
80g plain flour
small pinch of salt
2 eggs, beaten
135ml water

For the chocolate sauce
50g unsalted butter
200g good quality dark chocolate
1/2 cup of cream
1tbsp golden syrup

For the filling
400ml Double cream
Vanilla pod seeds, or good quality vanilla extract
1 dessertspoon of icing sugar (optional)

Preheat your oven to 200°C.
Line a baking tray with non stick baking parchment.
Place the water, butter and sugar in a good sized pan and heat until the butter is melted and the water is just beginning to boil.
Remove the pan from the heat and tip in the flour and salt, stirring immediately, don't worry if the pastry looks like a gloopy mess, it will all come together if you keep beating. Once the pastry has come together as a smooth dough, return to the heat for a whiles, no more than a minute, until the pastry begins to shrink away from the sides of the pan.
Remove from the heat once more and gradually add the eggs, beating well after each addition. You will end up with a smooth, glossy mixture that is dropping consistency.

Spoon or pipe small mounds of the mixture onto your baking tray, about 1 1/2 teaspoons per bun.

Sprinkle the tray with water to help create steam in the oven. Bake for 10-20 minutes until well golden brown, if you take them out too soon they will be too soft.
On removing the profiteroles from the oven, pierce each one on the underside with a skewer to let the steam escape. Leave to dry upside down on a cooling rack.

To make your chocolate sauce, put all the ingredients in a pan and melt together over a low heat, stirring continuously.

Whip the cream until it forms soft peaks, then whisk in the vanilla and if using, icing sugar.

Using a piping bag, fill the profiteroles with cream then serve with a spoonful of chocolate sauce.

This recipe made me 12 profiteroles so would generously serve 4.
Have you got any nice plans for the weekend? I think my girls want to write to Father Christmas, they're so excited and he likes to get a head start on the wrapping! xx

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Cornish pasties

I like fun food on Sundays, nothing that's too much effort but delicious all the same so when my husband mentioned he was craving a Cornish pasty I happily obliged!

We made at least double of the filling so we could freeze some, it's well seasoned, cubed braising steak, potatoes, onions and swede. We gently cooked the steak for a couple of hours before adding the vegetables so the filling would be lovely and soft.
 All inside an all butter rough puff pastry casing
Folded over and crimped together before egg washing & baking, here's the end result, alongside a happy husband!
Pasties were originally designed to give manual workers a hot lunch, miners and fisherman would take a pasty to work in the morning as the pastry would keep the filling warm, and as it was generally carried in a pocket it kept them warm too. It is said that workers with dirty hands would eat the pasty while holding the edge and then discard the crust. Apparently there would often be a meat filling in one end and a sweet, fruit filling in the other, I'm not too interested in trying that combination out!

This weekend has been really lovely, bonfire night celebrations are still in full swing here so there are fireworks going off all the time. We went to a fabulous bonfire party last night at a friends, they have an amazing garden with an old Rayburn (an old fashioned range oven that runs on wood) in it which they use as an outside oven, such a fab alternative to a barbecue! We had chili, soup and a Polish cabbage based dish. I baked brownies but totally forgot to photograph them, the amount of times I do this is unbelievable!

Then today we went shopping and I found this lovely cake stand in a shop full of random items, I'd never usually think to look inside but I'll definately be looking out in there in future, I love it!
You can customise it by changing the ribbon, I love the detail on the stand.

Did you have a good weekend?

Monday, 1 November 2010

Reversible pumpkin

This year was probably the first we'd ever really done anything for Halloween, so we carved pumpkins and realised that it looks good to do both sides so you have something pretty to look at inside too. I've seen some amazing pumpkins around but as this was our first try we kept it old school!
The kids went trick or treating for the first time and loved it, then went to a party at a school friends house, apple bobbing and sweets were the order of the day.
I was never really sold on the idea of Halloween but we had a fab time and will definitely be celebrating next year, and maybe we'll attempt a designer pumpkin too!
What did you do for Halloween? Do you have any fabulous ways to use up the tonne of pumpkin I have sitting in my fridge?!

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Banoffee Cheesecake

I'm slowly working my way through Nigella's new book 'Kitchen' and this is my latest creation, Banoffee Cheesecake. It's cooked in a water bath which helps eliminate the dark edge you usually get with a baked cheesecake, however I'm not sure it's going to be a new favourite. There's nothing actually wrong with it, it's beautifully light and moussy, the contrast between crunchy biscuit base, smooth centre and sticky, cloying topping is a delicious one, but the banana is a bit overpowering for me and the toffee flavour only comes from the topping. Unfortunately there's no caramel flavour throughout the mixture. It has inspired me to create my own version though so watch this space!

We took the girls to watch fireworks at Beaulieu Motor Museum yesterday evening, they were spectacular but while my three year old was totally in awe of how beautiful they were my five year old was terrified! Here she is before the fear kicked in, bless her!

I hope you're all having a wonderful Halloween x

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Autumn cooking & Halloween cupcakes

I might have not updated for a week or so, but I have been so busy preparing for Halloween & Christmas, and entertaining my girls through half term. We've had a lovely week together just being at home and catching up, it's lovely to have a week with no after school clubs to taxi to & from! Lots of photos have been taken but they've only just made it onto the computer, I've only chosen a few for you.

We don't usually do much to mark Halloween but this year we're going to a firework display on the Saturday and we'll do some lantern carving and walk in the forest on Sunday. I made some cute cuppies for the kids, the picture above is them naked, just a smear of vanilla buttercream.

Here's the result, I love how they turned out. I spent the afternoon making these and the girls made their own versions out of Play-Doh, so cute.

I wanted to include a couple of shots of bread rolls made from the same recipe the loaf was made from a month or so ago, it's such a versatile recipe, by Nigella you can read it here.
And with lovely spiced squash soup

Finally I baked my Christmas cake, here it is ready for the oven, watch this space for the cake in all it's beautifully decorated glory some when in December.

Have a lovely weekend xx

Friday, 15 October 2010

Cookies - the (almost) finished article & Honey's first birthday

What a transformation hey? It's taken me a while and I've used quite a few icing bags but I got there in the end, and I am so pleased with the result. They look so pretty, and taste yummy too. It's just a simple sugar cookie with some vanilla seeds added. Here's a close up

And while I was at it I made a few others too, here they are


Seahorses and Angel fish

I say almost finished because really the seahorses could have more detail and the creatures need eyes but I couldn't face making up ANOTHER colour of royal icing for the finishing touches! So now I have a tonne of cookies sitting here looking pretty & I don't know what to do with them all, my husband might have to take them to work to stop me & the girls eating them all.

As well as all the icing we've been celebrating our Labradoodle Honey's birthday today. She just turned one and is thrilled to have a new bed and some extra toys to play with, here's a photo of the birthday girl celebrating in style.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010


I was hoping to have an array of beautifully decorated cookies to blog about and photograph this evening but you'll just have to make do with poor, naked ones instead.
I'm in the process of baking and decorating loads of cookies (biscuits here in the UK), just because it looked like a fun thing to do. I started at 5 this afternoon and have just given up for the evening. I've baked hearts, butterflies and sea creatures and iced the base of the hearts. It's so time consuming!! Each batch has to chill for 1/2 an hour before baking, then cool before icing, they're going to look so pretty when they're done though.

Please do check back soon to see the finished article xx

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Preparing for Christmas - Chutney

I started making preparations for Christmas today by making two chutneys and a Chili Jam. I always enjoy making my own chutney, it's a perfect Sunday afternoon activity and it makes me feel really homely, the vinegar boiling off isn't the most pleasant smell in the world but when you end with lots of pretty jars full of preserves it makes it totally worth it.

Red Onion Chutney simmering away.

Christmas Chutney cooking down.

Chili seeds removed and ready to go, tip if you're doing this for the first time, scrub under your nails really well before scratching your nose!

The chili and peppers after being boiled with Cider Vinegar and preserving sugar.

The finished product.

From left to right, Christmas, Chili, Red Onion chutneys. I love the luminescence of the chili with the sunlight shining through it.

Did you have a nice Sunday? I hope so xx

Thursday, 7 October 2010

84th birthday cake with pink sugar roses

My husband's Granny is lovely. When I told her I was going to start looking into making cake design my profession she gave me all of her decorating equipment and didn't want anything in return. This was probably about four years ago now and I've been waiting for a chance to do something nice for her ever since. Recently we got invited to her surprise birthday party and I volunteered to make the cake.
It's a double depth lemon sponge, covered in citrus syrup and filled with five layers of lemon curd buttercream.

Want to see some close ups? Course you do...

 Handmade sugar rose dome with wired petals and pearls

Andy's Granny cutting the cake, she was lost for words which was so touching.

Have a nice Friday xx

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Chocolate Birthday Cake and Fairy Toadstools

So, recently I made my first cake to be iced in chocolate fondant, I made chocolate plastic and mixed it with regular fondant to make my paste. It was fab to work with although it seemed to get little hairline cracks in the icing much easier than normal fondant but the warmth of my hands smoothed them out so easily. What I loved about the chocolate paste was that the cake smelled amazing even when covered, my family were all desperate to eat it, unfortunately it wasn't for us!

Between all the baking we've been on some beautiful family walks recently, we're so lucky to live in such a beautiful place and in autumn it really comes to life. The leaves are starting to transform into a million shades of brown, while crunching through the fallen ones my daughter found a fairy toadstool, she was enchanted by it. The proper name for it is a Fly Agaric, they really are so vibrant and pretty.

Hope you're enjoying the autumn sunshine too xx