Sunday, 28 September 2014

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Gluten free pistachio cake

Yesterday I left you with this picture.

It's a gluten free pistachio cake.  Whenever I bake gluten free cakes I add ground almonds to keep the moisture level up.  Gluten free cakes can taste chalky and no one wants that in a cake.  My step mum has to eat a gluten free diet and so when she joined our family a whole new challenge came into baking.  I found gluten-free flour very odd at first (and made some shocking disasters).  I've played about with honey, milk, cream, fruit and nuts to keep it moist and ground almonds are by far the best.

You want a cake to taste like a cake, no matter whether it has gluten in it or not.  It's really not fair to hold up your hands and say sorry it's a bit crap….I used gluten free flour. (Fine, you might not be eating it, but other people have to.)

Anyway….back to the cake.  

I decided, whilst the blackberry bread was proving for the first time, that I wanted to make a cake for Cara, my baby brother's girlfriend.  She has recently got some rather wonderful A-level results and got into the University of her choice, so we'd been invited for a hog roast with her family (It was a "meet the family" type of thing.  I'm surprised we could be trusted to meet her family.)

Problem was………I didn't have any ground almonds.

I DID have a packet of pistachios though, so thought that if I blitzed them then they'd probably have the same effect….being nuts, and all….

Cara is a big fan of a multicoloured cake, so green seemed like a logical decision.

On Sunday morning I set to work icing it.  I wanted to use buttercream as I recently learned that if you want lighter buttercream you should keep beating as it gets whiter the more you beat it. (Please tell me I wasn't the only one who has only found that out……..?)

You can't really tell from the pictures but it was a really light cream colour….I was really impressed!

The swirls were done by piping a vertical line of blobs and using the back of a teaspoon to "sploosh" (very technical term) one side down.  To make it easier I had a mug of boiling water that I put the spoon in between the lines.

The top might be a bit wonky but I was so pleased with the way it turned out.

Someone else thought it was "ok".

It's a wonder it wasn't eaten by the boys before it reached Cara.  

It was joked about, before it was cut, that I might have mucked up the order of the layers……nothing like support from your family, is there?


Monday, 22 September 2014

Weekend caking

Saturday, for us, was grey and dismal.  I hate having to put on lights in the day…it just seems so unnatural but I found myself having to.

I've been feeling really "low" for the past few days and just wanted to mope about in my pj's feeling sorry for myself.  Oli was at his dads and I was missing him and our local park has been closed due to vandalism.  The weather being as it was really wasn't helping my mood.

But there was no time for moping on Saturday.  I had a visitor.

Susie B came for lunch (and brought oh so much cheese with her).

She says she wanted to see me but it was the boys she was after.

It might have been the cuddles she was after, but I think it was actually to dress the smallest little man as a caterpillar.  (We have since learned that it would have been far easier to do this with a sleeping newborn than a wriggly six month old.)

It's very rare that I see Susie and we don't bake….and if we're not baking then we're sewing…

So when the boys were snuggled in bed for a nap I put the kettle on and we had a think about what to make over a much needed cup of tea.

We settled on Blackberry Loaf from the Hummingbird bakery book.  (Well, it was blueberry loaf but I have blackberries coming out of my eyeballs……not literally, that'd be worrying…)

I've been having real problems with bread and was getting down heartened about it.  

I have figured out my problem and have a little word of advice for all would be bread makers out there…..make sure you check your yeast isn't out of date/dead. … proves far better if it is live yeast.  (Yes…I was using dead yeast and wondering why it wasn't proving.  I'm never going to live that down now…)

 With live yeast it did what it was supposed to do, thankfully and here is is, fresh out of the oven.

It was rather darn good.

We also baked the layers for a gluten free pistachio cake, ready for me to bake on Sunday morning….but that deserves it's own post.

So thank you Susie for cheering me up and helping me trash my kitchen……..funny how I don't post any photos of what happens post baking...

Saturday, 20 September 2014


My neighbour invited me blackberry picking with him and promised me a large haul.

I was slightly sceptical that we'd get that many, it being a few weeks after blackberry season was at it's peak, so thought we'd get a few, but that the majority would have already been foraged.  

"Ah, but this is somewhere that no one knows about" I was told.

So I donned my wax jacket and Dubarry boots (thorns are not fun) and we scaled mountains and rivers…bears and scorpions to find this foraging paradise.

I got a little too obsessed with the alpine strawberries…"Look, I'm a giant"…and most didn't make it into the bowl.

When I got home the boys eyes were like saucers in amazement with the sheer number we'd picked, and pretty soon their chins were stained red with berry juice and they were very happy little boys.


Friday, 5 September 2014

Slugs and snails and puppy dog tails

Is that really what little boys are made of?

Girls are sweet and play nicely with barbies and cuddly toys and make jewellery with colourful plastic beads.  They'll learn ballet, in their pretty pink tutus. They'll skip in wild flower meadows, hand in hand, picking posies and singing.  They sit quietly and read books about rainbows and unicorns.  They are never dirty, never spill their food and can't stand the sight of mud.  They are loving and kind.  They will grow up unable to do anything physical but will be able to soufflĂ© like the best of them

Boys are rough.  They fight and have an abundance of energy that can only be expelled by being loud and running about.  They don't skip through meadows…they bulldoze their way through it stamping on flowers as they go.  Boys do not sit still.  They are rude, talk back and fidget.  Any talk that isn't about poo is something they don't want to be part of.  They play with Lego and building blocks and with diggers in the dirt.  They play football and Rugby.  They will grow up to do manly jobs, drink beer and eat a lot of red meat.

I have three little boys (have I ever mentioned that).

I feel like boys get a hard time for being rowdy and rude….and, on the other hand, that "being a boy" is an excuse for any bad behaviour.

Don't get me wrong, boys don't always get the raw end of the deal….the cooler toys are always in the "boys" section (I mean, how ridiculous is it that toys seem to have a gender?) and there's far less focus on how they look/how much they weigh as they grow up.
Is a toy used with a child's genitals…?  If no then it is a toy for ANY child regardless of gender, if yes then it's not a toy that children should be anywhere near.

My boys will be brought up to respect others.

To be polite and caring young men.

To be able to cook for their future partner (Yes, Mr B, that is a slightly pointed comment.)
They'll learn that their worth isn't in how much money they earn, or how attractive they are, but from their self respect and how they treat others.

Being the mother of boys I'm going to go through the situation of their partners parents wondering if they're "good enough" for their little girl (or son….).  I want to bring my boys up so that their partners parents either don't have that worry, or who, when they meet my son, they realise how well toward they are.

My little brother went through a very difficult stage as a young teen (sorry B, but you were simply horrible at times…you were also ok..*love you*)  He has grown into a wonderful young man and I couldn't be prouder of him and all he has achieved.

Children can be difficult….and I'll be ready for the teenage rampage….but I feel that if you have brought them up with your values then they will generally end up as a "goodun".  I fully expect to be challenged and at times despair at their behaviour, but they are my boys and I will always support them to become the best young men they can be.

There will be no gender stereotyping.  Dolls are equal to Lego in this house.  

…well actually nothing is equal to Lego…….NOTHING!

Their gender has no bearing on how I bring them up.  Society might have them all figured out but I haven't yet.  They are all completely different…already that is clear to see, but they will always be my sons….whether they're Scientists, Captains of industry or Jazz mavericks is inconsequential, so long as they do what they want then I am happy.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Passion fruit curd

My all time favourite cake has to be courgette cake with passion fruit curd and a cream cheese icing, chopped pistachios sprinkled on top.

I think it's a Nigella recipe but I was given it by a friend, who in turn had got it from their friend.

Passion fruit curd is sweet and sharp and goes extremely well with cake.  The only thing is there isn't much of it about.  You're not going to be able to toddle into your local Sainsburys….or even Waitrose….and be able to find it alongside the likes of lemon curd, strawberry conserves or honeys.  I've seen it in a few fancy farm shops and deli's but that's about it.  

So it makes a lot of sense to make it if you need it.

It's not cheap to make….passion fruit isn't exactly most peoples everyday fruit and with that comes a certain price tag….but it's really worth it.

10 passion fruit
2 large eggs + 2 yolks
140g sugar
100g unsalted butter

First you have the fun job of "juicing" the passion fruit.  I do it by sieving the pulp through a sieve into a bowl.  It takes a while to do, but keep going.  It doesn't look like you'll get much out of them but trust me…keep going and you'll be amazed at how much juice comes out.

Melt the butter on a gentle heat in a saucepan. 

In another bowl mix the egg and sugar together.

Add the sugar/egg mixture and the passion fruit juice to the melted butter and STIR as you pour.
The two things that are really important is that you don't get impatient and turn the heat up and that you don't stop stirring.  You need to be in it for the long game.  It'll take a while, and you'll be convinced that nothing is happening, that nothing will ever happen and that you're going to be stuck with a weird passion fruit egg mixture, but persevere.  If you turn the heat up then you'll be stuck with passion fruit flavoured scrambled eggs and if you don't wait long enough then it won't be firm enough and will cause many an argument if you have a baking partner.  It should coat the back of a wooden spoon when it's done.  (It'll still seem quite runny, but it will set as it cools.)

Eat with a spoon, and put whatever's left in the cake.

(If you purely want it for one cake then you can make half the quantity and you'll still have more than enough.)

I made the cake for two very good friends wedding and was horrified (and slightly proud) that it had all gone before I'd managed to get a slice at the afternoon tea.

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