The One with the Jelly Belly Cupcakes

Jellies on the plate …

Mum, I said, there are jellies on the plate!

One, two, three, four, five …

They’re still there, Mum. Look, just over there …

Perhaps she can’t see them. I’m getting worried about this …

Mum … about those jellies …

… the jellies on the plate …

Yes! These jellies! Can I eat one? Please, pleeeeease

Phew, I was seriously worried for a moment there.

Nibble, gobble, nibble, gobble …

… jellies on the plate!

Jelly Belly Cupcakes (adapted from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book)

4 oz soft butter or margarine
4 oz caster sugar
2 eggs
3 oz self-raising flour
1 oz cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp chocolate essence

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F. Line about 18 holes in bun trays with paper liners.

Place all the ingredients together in a large bowl and beat well for 2 to 3 minutes until well combined and smooth.

Half fill each paper liner with the batter.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the cakes are well risen and springy to touch.

Transfer each cake to a wire rack to cool.

Jelly Belly Buttercream

6 oz butter
12 oz icing sugar
a few drops of red food colouring

Beat all ingredients together until smooth.

Spread each cupcake with Jelly Belly Buttercream and decorate with jelly beans. 3 year-olds do this better than adults 😉 .

Fairy Cakes

This is the true story of how we were given the food of fairies.

A long time ago when people believed in enchantment …

… a young man was sauntering down a country lane. The hedgerows were brimming with tangled wild roses while the oppressive heat of the midday sun beat down from overhead. The young man hummed a jaunty tune to himself and smiled as he remembered his daughter’s soft features and gleeful delight when she had opened her birthday gifts earlier that morning.

As he approached the bend where a stony farm track crossed the country lane, he became aware of a sobbing noise that seemed to be coming from somewhere in the long grass on the other side of a rickety iron gate. He paused with one hand on the rusted latch but, seeing nobody in the field, turned back to continue on his way.

All of a sudden he heard a mournful cry.

“I’ve broken my spade, I’ve broken my spade!”

The man’s brow knotted in puzzlement as he turned once again to see who would be working at such a sultry time of day. A gentle breeze parted the long blades of grass and the man glimpsed a small girl sitting on a pale, round stone. She was the prettiest fairy the man had ever seen.

The fairy held her broken spade in one hand and in her other some shining nails and a hammer. She raised her eyes to meet the man’s gaze. Smiling at him, she displayed her tools as though asking for his help.

For a long while the young man could only gape in wonderment, his hand frozen in mid-air with fingers outstretched towards the gate.

“I’ve broken my spade!” the fairy called again, breaking into the man’s trance.

It wasn’t difficult for him to mend the broken spade. With a few carefully aimed taps of the hammer, he drove the nails through the sockets and pinned the small rectangular blade onto its worn, wooden handle.

With a smile, the fairy took the mended spade from the young man’s hands and disappeared in a shimmering flurry of wings.

Later that day when the blackbird’s evening song sounded through the encroaching dusk, the young man was astonished to discover a plate of tiny cakes on his kitchen table. He understood immediately that these miniature treats were a gift from the fairy in gratitude for his help in mending her broken spade.

The young man was wise in fairy ways and knew that saying thank you would be impolitic. So he and his family simply shared the sparkling fairy cakes among themselves, savouring every bite and commenting aloud on their tastiness.

When the last crumbs had been licked from the plate, the young man opened the door to the cool evening air and wished the fairies goodnight.

Fairy Cakes (adapted from Mary Berry’s Ultimate Cake Book)

4 oz (100g) soft butter or margarine
4 oz (100g) caster sugar
2 eggs
4 oz (100g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees C/400 degrees F. Line about 18 holes in bun trays with paper liners.

Place all the ingredients together in a large bowl and beat well for 2 to 3 minutes until well combined and smooth.

Half fill each paper liner with the batter.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15 to 20 minutes until the cakes are well risen and golden.

Transfer each cake to a wire rack to cool.

Decorate with icing, silver balls, pink and white miniature marshmallows and sparkling pink fairy dust.

With grateful thanks to Ruth Lawrence of Party Pieces for providing such a wonderful party for my own 5-year-old fairy on her birthday in June this year.

Cheese Scones and Brioche

Whoosh, where did this last weekend go? One moment I was standing in the school playground on Friday afternoon and the next I was there again, delivering L to her classroom at the start of a new week. We’ve been busy, busy, busy.

But I have to tell you, I have the most gorgeous children. Okay, I’m probably biased, but whose heart could fail to melt when given such a beautiful gift as this Mothering Sunday card?

mothers day card

Believe me, I know my elder daughter and she’s not the speediest of people – it must have taken her ages to make that card for me! She rushed home from school when I collected her on Friday and secreted herself in her bedroom with her bookbag and the ‘something special’ that she’d carried back inside it. She emerged a little while later telling me that I was banned from looking in the corner (which did make me worry slightly – if she’d hidden something in the corner of her room, I had grave doubts about whether or not it would ever see the light of day again).

How proudly she presented her special card to me yesterday, Mothering Sunday. M joined the ceremony by (somewhat reluctantly) handing me two gigantically enormous bars of chocolate (while L helpfully reminded me that I had to share). And T baked me some cheddar cheese scones 🙂 (well … T apparently fell asleep on the kitchen table while I was out with the girls on Saturday afternoon, so that O found himself with a surprisingly undisturbed opportunity to find his way around my recipe books and flour cupboard).

mothers day cheese scones

Beautiful! We ate the scones in our own version of a Devonshire Cream Tea – runny slices of brie in place of clotted cream, topped with spoonfuls of the Bay Tree’s chipotle chilli jelly instead of our homemade blackberry jam (the last jar of which I’m saving for a special occasion). The cream tea purists will be turning in their graves, but the brie and jelly were the perfect accompaniments to the cheesy tang of the scones. As I said – beautiful!

For my own part, I thanked my wonderful family by baking a brioche for breakfast on Sunday morning.

O has been dropping hints for some time now that he’d like brioche to go with his marmalade, but that would have meant digging out my dough hook from wherever it might have ended up buried in our garage after our move to Devon four years ago. Although a comfortingly familiar activity to me now, bread-making is something that I’ve only come to fairly recently and I have, until this point, managed with only the most minimal of kitchen tools (aka my hands). I knew from reading Rose Levy Beranbaum’s Basic Brioche Recipe however that my hands were not an option here, unless I wished to spread all of the dough into an unmanageable sticky mess along my worktop. And so, on Saturday evening, I ventured into the darkest reaches of the garage, armed only with L’s small, dynamo-powered torch.

The brioche was obviously meant to be. I found the dough hook in the very first box I chose to open. I even woke up unusually early on Sunday morning, which allowed me time to remove the chilly dough from the fridge and shape it in my teeniest loaf pan so that it could rise and bake with minutes to spare before the rest of the family were stirring from their sleep.

Needless to say, Rose’s instructions were spot on. The meltingly golden brioche that I took from the oven was devoured so quickly that I didn’t get much of a chance to take many photos. The ravenous hoards couldn’t even wait until it had fully cooled. It went from being a shiny, blooming creation to a few silky crumbs on the bread board in the space it took me to vaguely contemplate the lack of daylight at that time of the morning.

mothers day brioche

O says he’d be happy to have this brioche every time he fancies marmalade for breakfast (which is him being wildly enthusiastic, jumping up and down and clapping his hands together in joyous excitement). I agree.

Happy Doughnuts

Supermarket shopping with the girls in tow always has the potential to become a very expensive affair. Take yesterday, for example. Despite numerous advance reminders of the enormous bag of sweets we collected last Thursday (I blame Santa), our procession towards the bakery department prompted clamours for the chocolate-covered doughnuts on display there.

I muttered that we could make some. The girls wanted to know when. Later. When we get home? I sort of mumbled a bit, which they took to be a firm agreement.

That’s why we were all in a chocolatey, doughnutty, sticky mess when O arrived home from work yesterday evening. The girls were very happy with their doughnuts. T was very happy spreading chocolate, largely around his mouth as far as I could see, but considered the doughnuts themselves far too suspicious to attempt to eat. I’m sure he’ll change his mind about this in another year or so.

happy doughnuts

The recipe for the doughnuts was written on the packaging of my mini baked doughnut tin. It offers a delicious and simple alternative to recipes that call for deep-fat frying of the doughnuts, but does rely on your having the pans for this. Even although you’d be hard pushed to regard doughnuts as a healthy option, it does make me feel slightly better about myself as a Mum when I see my children tucking into doughnuts that have been plucked from the oven rather than from the greasy depths of a pan filled with hot cooking fat!

And so, in celebration of all things seasonal, I’d like to wish everyone extremely happy doughnuts 🙂 .

happy doughnuts 2009

Mini Baked Doughnuts (adapted from Judge Bakeware)

1 tbsp (1/2 oz) butter
225 g (8 oz) plain flour
1 tsp vanilla extract
175 g (6 oz) castor sugar
2 tsp baking powder
175 ml (6 fl oz) milk
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 160 degrees C (325 degrees F). Wipe the pan wells with a little cooking oil to prevent sticking.

Melt the butter in a small saucepan.

Combine the remaining ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Add the melted butter and stir thoroughly until the batter is smooth.

Pour the batter into the doughnut shapes, filling each no more than 3/4 full. Bake in the centre of the oven for 15 minutes (when tested with a skewer, the skewer should be clean). The doughnuts will come out easily if you carefully release the edges with the blade of a knife before attempting to pull them out of their wells.

Leave to cool, then decorate with chocolate sauce* and sprinkles.

* We make our current favourite chocolate sauce by melting 3 to 4 oz of chocolate together with a tablespoon of golden syrup, 1/2 oz of butter and 1 to 2 tablespoons of water.

A Day in the Life of a Cookie

10.30 am: Overheard at my conception:

“Mummy, where do Sticky Toffee cookies come from?”

“Well, this one needs 140g of dates … that’s right, take the stones out. Put them in a saucepan. Not the stones … the dates, sweetie. Now add 2 tablespoons of water. Hmm, you spilt a bit. Add another tablespoon, then. And 2 tablespoons of golden syrup. Yes, I know it’s sticky. No! Don’t lick … oh, go and wash your hands again.

Don’t touch the saucepan now, sweetie. It’s hot – I boiled the dates and look, they’re all mulchy now. Let’s finish them off in the food processor. Okay, you can stir in a teaspoon of grated orange zest and 1/4 teaspoon (not heaped … knock a bit off) of bicarbonate of soda now. No! You can’t lick the spoon! Can you help me scrape this all out into a mixing bowl?

That’s it – tap the sieve. No, it’s not sugar – we’re sieving 225g of plain flour into the bowl. We’ll add 165g of castor sugar next. And the butter (100g). And finally, one egg. Crack it first, sweetie. Oh dear, never mind. Let’s just try to fish out as much of the shell as we can. Then you can give it all a good stir. Try to keep it in the bowl.”

11 am: It’s very dark in here. And cold, too. There’s a monotonous whirring sound and a pervading aroma of blue cheese. I must be in The First-Fridge Trimester.

11.30 am: A bright light, the door opens. Here’s a tablespoon. Ooo, that tickles! Look, I’m a round ball on a baking sheet now. So this is what happens in the Second-Shaping Trimester.

11.35 am: I’m getting very hot in here. It’s 180 degrees C! I can feel myself spreading out a bit, too. This has to be the Third-Thermal Trimester.

11.45 am: I’m beginning to turn brown now and I’m getting crispy around my edges. Things are speeding up …

11.48 am: It’s a spatula-delivery!

spatula delivery

11.55 am: Hands off – I haven’t cooled down yet!

hands off

12 noon: Mmmm … I was born for this.

born for this

Wonder if I’ll be in time to join the illustrious ranks of Food Blogga‘s 2nd Christmas Cookie Season?