Sunday, February 26, 2012

Spider Walnut Halves

So, my Mum sent me a bag full of walnut halves as a birthday present (there were other presents too!) for my "creative side." Hmmmm. I had not come up with anything interesting so far and I mentioned it to friends who came over at the weekend.

They had many suggestions, nipple tassles and a string bikini being some of the more racy! Natalie suggested turning them into tortoises, then Lyndsey thought about putting jiggly bugs in them - this gave me the idea of getting them boys to paint them like ladybirds and beetles and then it hit me. Zachary's having a Spiderman party next weekend and I'm short of spiders for a treasure hunt game. I was going to print out some paper ones, but I can make them from the walnut halves! I can't believe we actually came up with something for them! We already have a can of black spray paint and I'm going on a googly eyes shopping spree tomorrow - just need to work out how to get legs on...

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Pear and Almond Flapjack Tart

Well, the topping was not so flapjacky, but still very tasty! From Good Food magazine Feb 2012...

I think we took it out of the tin too early as the pastry just dropped off at the slightest touch! Either that or my pastry was too short...

500g block dessert pastry (I made my own pastry - 250g plain flour, 125g butter, 2 dessert spoons icing sugar, bind with 1 egg yolk and a tbspn cold water. I did have to add extra water on top of that but very slowly to make sure not too much. Then wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes)
5 pears, peeled, cored and sliced (I used conference pears which were quite crisp, but didn't taste very peary in the tart. Perhaps need riper pears or a different variety)
25g golden caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
large pinch mixed spice
flaked almonds, to finish
pouring cream or custard to serve

Topping -
140g porridge oats
50g plain flour
50g ground almonds (if your pears are really ripe and juicy, it's a good idea to sprinkle an extra layer of ground almonds over the pastry before adding the pears)
100g golden caster sugar
140g cold butter, diced
3 tbsp golden syrup

1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Roll out the pastry and use to line a 23cm tart tin (mine was a deep one), leaving a sight overhang. Line with greaseproof paper and baking beans, then bake for 20 mins. Remove the beans and paper, trim the pastry, then return to the oven for 10 mins more or until the pastry is biscuity brown.

2. Meanwhile, toss the pears in the sugar and spice, then set aside. To make the topping, tip the oats, flour and ground almonds into a large bowl with the sugar and a pinch of salt, then rub in the butter with your fingertips until you have a soft mixture. Stir in the golden syrup.

3. Increase oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Tip the pears over the base of the tart, then flatten the oaty pastry into a round and place it over the pears - push/spread it with your fingers so the pears are completely covered. Scatter with flaked almonds and an extra sprinkling of sugar, then bake for 30 mins.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

White chocolate chip and peanut butter cookies

Lovely, lovely recipe from Great British Bake-Off winner Jo Wheatley in last month's Good Food. Quick, easy and delicious - I have a fan oven and reduced the heat according to the recipe, but they still seemed a bit soft coming out after 10 minutes. For my second batch I reduced the temp but added 2 minutes to the cooking time and this seemed to work a treat.

100g unsalted butter, softened
100g crunchy peanut butter
50g demerara sugar
50g caster sugar
1 large egg
100g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g white chocolate chips

1. Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper. Mix the butter, peanut butter and sugars together with an electric whisk until light and fluffy, then gradually add the egg, whisking constantly, until fully combined. Finally fold in the flour, baking powder, bicarb and chocolate drops/chunks.

2. Using an ice-cream scoop, place dollops of cookie dough onto the baking trays, leaving a generous border around the cookies as they will spread in the oven. (can freeze the raw cookie dough at this stage).

3. Bake for 10 minutes, taking the tray out half-way through and banging sharply on a work surface covered with a couple of tea-towels - this dispels the air, making lovely squidgy cookies.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Life Lesson learned this week - never take your 2-year old with you anywhere you might need to appear even vaguely professional...

I have joined forces with a local recruitment agency in an effort to get myself back into the workplace as a solicitor again. I needed to drop some ID documents and bits off to them so thought I would drop them round in person (rather than post them) and have a chat with the bloke managing me (hee hee!) while I was there. Leo came too.

Lovely conference room - in the middle a big glass table with 4 mirrored legs. Very nice. During my meeting (in preparation for which I had actually taken some books to keep Leo occupied - some hope) Leo started by popping in and out the door a few times. Then when he'd explored that he got under the table and had great fun working out that he could see me through it. Followed this up by licking and kissing the mirrored table legs, trying to bite the corner of the table and then doing a massive poo. Accompanied by grunts and smell. Then him looking at me plaintively through the glass table top and mouthing "I've done a poo."

Great work.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Eccles Cake

Again from Good Food January 2012 - this is a sponge cake with an Eccles cake-type filling. Very tasty and moist. It has apple chunks in the sponge as well which made me think the cake was vastly undercooked when we first cut it open but then I realised I was just looking at chunks of apple!

Friday, February 03, 2012

Sticky Toffee Tarts

Yet another try-out from Good Food mag January 2012. I was a bit concerned that my pastry was too brown after the blind baking, and I had the oven down too low for the last bake so it took another 15 mins on top of the advertised time for them to look done (that is, not wobbly on top!) but yum, yum, yum!!!