One-A-Day Cookies

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This was some impromtu baking… I’d bought eggs, checked in the shop that they were ok but hadn’t noticed that one was cracked at the bottom with the shell stuck to the box. So obviously when I tried to take it out, the shell broke and there was a bit of a mess. And then I thought it better to use it up sooner rather than later, before it went bad. Cookies seemed to be a good idea but with Easter just gone and all the chocolate the kids got, chocolate cookies were out of the question and oat & raisin – always a good one but I didn’t fancy them. So I made Dan Lepard’s One-A-Day Cookies.

I haven’t made them in a long time and I’ve actually found them to be too sweet. I reduced the sugar to 60g for the white and 60g for the brown but we’ve been reducing sugar in baking recipes for over four years and I can’t imagine how sickly they must have been with the full amount. Next time, I’ll reduce it even more.
The recipe suggests a mixture of seeds; I used only sunflower this time since this was all I had available. I also didn’t toast them. It would have been nicer but I wanted a shortcut. Nothing more, nothing less. Also I think a mix of bigger and smaller seeds, such as sunflower and sesame, would work really well.
It is also suggested to replace the white sugar with a grated apple. I’ve tried this out before but I wasn’t that keen.
They go down really well. A couple of these served as a welcome home treat for my friend and neighbour. Master Meike’s Kitchen likes them in his lunchbox, and Miss Meike’s Kitchen and myself like them for elevenses… 🙂

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Crumble & Cupcakes

This is a recap from the Easter weekend. It’s been quite busy – as you can imagine with two kids excited about the Easter bunny, an extended family to see, a baby born in Easter Monday (a girl to my cousin, congratulations!) and so on.

Our rhubarb is now ready for picking and so it was time for a crumble last Saturday. With custard, of course. I used Jamie Oliver’s recipe but put ground ginger into the crumble and what was left of the Rumble in the Crumble spice mix that I’ve mentioned here before. I also chopped up an orange and put that with the rhubarb. I wasn’t quite sure how the kids would like the rhubarb but in the end I needn’t have worried. Master Meike’s Kitchen isn’t bothered with anything that comes with custard – as long as he can have the custard as is… And Miss Meike’s Kitchen eats anything, bless her.

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For Easter I tried my luck with cupcakes again. The last time I made some was last year Easter. I mean, it’s so demoralising – there are all those wonderful blogs out there with everybody making the most amazing cupcakes. And then there’s me. I can barely pipe. But if I don’t practise, I won’t get any better and I’m rather pleased with the way they looked. I tried out two tips but one of the wasn’t really suitable for my frosting. Or rather, the frosting was too soft for piping. It tasted nice though. I made two types, one with carrots and pineapple and the other one with rhubarb.
The recipe for the carrot and pineapple cupcakes can be found here; I didn’t fiddle with it, apart from reducing the sugar. We weren’t actually that keen. They were quite dry and very nutty. I’ve got a similar muffin recipe that is much nicer so I’ll stick to that in the future.

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I decorated the cupcakes – as you can see – with mini eggs and malteser bunnies. The kids were more keen on the bunnies.

The rhubarb cupcakes we did like. They were lovely and moist and quite subtle in flavour. The frosting was just very green… 🙂 I probably used too much woodruff syrup but the taste wasn’t overpowering. I think you’d only taste it if you knew it was there. The recipe is also available here. I wouldn’t reduce the sugar as much as I’d normally do because the rhubarb can be quite tart.

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I thought they looked quite alright and my family – as is their duty – was full of admiration… 😉

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Hot Cross Buns & Baking Bread 12

I haven’t had Hot Cross Buns for a while. The last ones must have been shop-bought ones in England two years ago. And the last time I made some was even longer ago. I remember I had an issue with the cross that time. My recipe required the crosses to be made out of shortcrust pastry and put on top on the buns. That didn’t work for me. Friends of mine made some the other year and they used a paste of flour and water. I did that this time and I’m a very happy bunny.
I also baked two types of bread. I defrosted the last bag before Master Meike’s Kitchen and I went away for the weekend and I didn’t feel guilty at all leaving Mr and Miss to go and buy some bread. There was so much going on, I don’t think I could have fitted in any breadmaking.

The bread I’ve made I’ve talked about before. It was the Peasant Bread from Baking Bread 10 and, for Mr Meike’s Kitchen, the Viennese Bread from Baking Bread 8.

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And now for the fun bit, the Hot Cross Buns. The recipe is from a Reader’s Digest book called Great British Dishes the Healthy Way (2002), a Christmas present from my MIL. I’ve tried out a couple of the recipes and they’ve been alright. Back to the HCB: it’s actually one for saffron buns but leave out the saffron, pipe a cross on and, hey presto, HCB! I’ve made another little change or two as well so here goes:

Ingredients:
For the buns:
500g strong white bread flour
A good pinch of salt
7g sachet of easy-blend dried yeast
50g white sugar
200g raisins
50g butter, melted
1 large egg, beaten
For the crosses:
2 tbsp flour
2 tbsp water (or more)
For the glaze:
3 tsp runny honey, warmed

Put the flour and salt into a large bowl, then stir in the yeast, sugar and raisins. Add the melted butter, egg and milk. Mix well and remove the mixture to a floured surface. Knead for up to 10 minutes until smooth and elastic.
Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for 1 1/2 – 2 hours until well risen.
Turn the dough onto a floured board and knock out the air. Divide into 12 pieces of roughly the same size and shape each into a round bun. Place on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment, cut crosswise nearly to the bottom, cover and leave for 45-60 minutes until risen again.
Heat the oven to 220°C.
Mix the flour and water to a paste, not too runny but you need to be able to pipe it. Then pipe it into the cuts on the buns.
Bake the HCB for 15 minutes until golden, then remove to a wire rack. Brush with the honey while still warm, then leave to cool slightly.

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Happy Easter!

Birthday Cake for Mr Meike’s Kitchen

It was supposed to be something fantastic, something extraordinary. But then, while baking, I thought it was all a horrible mistake. All the separate components tasted awful or wrong on their own. Actually that’s not true, one was truly a revelation. But more later.

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I made this sprinkles cake using a recipe I’d found on Cookies & Cups, one of my favourite blogs. I stuck to the recipe – more or less: I used only half the amount of sugar and still found the cake rather sweet and I also used smaller baking tins so the cakes were thicker.

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I made a white chocolate frosting as filling, again using a recipe from Cookies & Cups. This was actually a revelation. Butter and choc are melted together, cooled and then put in the fridge overnight. It goes solid again, of course, but then you whip it up and it’s amazingly fluffy. And delicious. This is definitely a keeper.

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Next step in the process was streusel as topping. The recipe is here (omit the cinnamon and put in sprinkles) but we found them too salty so, if there is a next time, I’d use only half the amount of salt.

I also used Cookie & Cups’ recipe for buttercream but I balked at the amount of sugar and bottled it after I’d put in half the amount given in the recipe. It was still alright albeit a bit greasy at first. It was fine once the cake had been chilled.

And now the fun bit: assembling the cake.

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It was one of the sprinkles cakes at the bottom, then the white chocolate frosting, the second sprinkles cake, everything covered in buttercream and then sprinkles streusel on top.

All in all, a lot of work but well worth it in the end.

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Easter Bunnies & Fish

I’ve done some seasonal baking but because Miss Meike’s Kitchen was “helping” me, I was too busy stopping her from eating the flour and not concentrating on the recipe. It was a bit of a disaster, actually. I used my grandmother’s tried and tested recipe for cookies but I wanted to halve it. I halved the butter and the flour but put in the whole quantity of eggs so the dough was too soft, then I reduced the sugar content by a third but forgot to halve it so it was also too sweet … and then I put a very generous amount of vanilla in too. It was even generous for the full recipe. Doh! I have decided to write the halved quantities into my recipe book. Maybe that will help…
I’ll share the recipe when I don’t mess it up…
We (I) made bunnies and also some little fish. I thought they would be rather suitable for Good Friday.
I glazed them all – some more, some less. The darker bunnies, alright the little bit burnt bunnies, got an all-over white glaze. I then coloured the glaze brown with some cocoa powder in order to add detail to the bunnies such as the tail and eye. The little fishies got an interesting metallic-looking colour. I just added red, yellow, green and blue food colouring to the brown glaze, didn’t mix it in properly and got varying colours. I know there are bloggers out there who do the most amazing and wonderful things with cake decorations but I’m such an amateur, it’s unbelievable. It doesn’t help not to have the right equipment and so I just muddle through. I’m getting better though. Honest.

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Baking Bread 11

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This one was an odd one. I thought I’d try out this recipe and then I discovered I’d run out of most of the flours. I was running down my supply so I could stock up at a mill nearby. I tried out this sunflower-kefir bread and mine was basically as follows:

For the sourdough
— With the flour I used —
85g coarse whole meal rye flour
85g kefir at room temperature
9g sourdough starter
Mix and leave for 16-18 hours at room temperature.

For the soaker
135g sunflower seeds, roasted
135g water, lukewarm
Mix and leave to soak for 16-18 hours at room temperature.

The original recipe asks for 14g of salt to be added to the soaker. Firstly, I found that the bread is too salty for my taste and secondly, it makes the sunflower seeds taste salty. So next time the salt will go in the main dough mix and there will be 4g less of it.

For the main dough
—- With the flours I used —
Sourdough
Soaker
130g coarse whole meal rye flour
290g strong wheat flour
35g whole meal wheat flour
250g kefir
14g fresh yeast

Knead it the best you can if you’re – like me – doing it by hand. It’s rather sticky. The original recipe probably quite rightly calls for the use of a food processor. If you’ve got one, 5 – 7 minutes mixing.
Let the dough rest for 25 minutes.
Shape the dough first into a round, then into an oblong. Let it prove in a proving basket for 60-75 minutes.
Then slash it once lengthways about 2cm deep.
Bake in a preheated oven (250°C) for 15 minutes with steam, then at 180°C for 45 minutes without steam.

It tastes alright if you don’t just put butter on it… But I found the taste of salt on the buttered bread simply overpowering. And since I do like a bit of buttered bread, the amount of salt will be reduced. I should have known anyway. By now I’ve baked bread often enough to have noticed a certain ratio of salt to flour… 😉
I was keen to try out a bread with kefir because my mum gave me a kefir fungus 6 weeks or so ago. I’ve been looking after it ever since and enjoyed my daily “tipple” of kefir but I also wanted to see whether I can use it for baking and so I collected about three days worth of kefir. And now you understand why I ploughed ahead making this bread when I found out I hadn’t got the required types of flour: I’d already invested too much into it!

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Something different: Pizza and a Saucy Monkey

I made pizza for lunch the other day. I used my tried and tested dough recipe although I had to make an impromptu wholemeal pizza after I discovered that Mr Meike’s Kitchen had left me no plain flour after a nightly Rock Cakes-making session. I used strong bread flour and whole wheat flour. I also left the dough to rise and prove which is actually not necessary with this recipe but it does improve the flavour and consistency of the baked base.

(Taken from a little book called Pizzas and Melts [1995] by Anne Wilson)
Ingredients
7g dried yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
1/4 l warm water
375g plain flour (or 225g plain or strong flour and 150 g whole meal)

Method
Mix yeast, salt, sugar and water. Cover. Leave in a warm place until it starts to bubble.
Put flour into a bowl and add the yeast-water mixture. Mix and knead. You can now leave the dough to rise in a covered bowl or shape it into your requires pizza base shape.
When you’ve shaped your dough, you can leave it to prove but again, it’s not necessary.

I sprinkled a mix of semolina and flour onto my base before putting the topping on.
My toppings this time were a bit odd. I used up a jar of preserved summer veg (loosely based on this recipe: I more or less followed the instructions but used different veg) and because that wasn’t enough, some ketchup. On top of that went salami slices and Fleischwurst (apparently this is called ‘German bologna’ in American English but I don’t remember what it is in British English, Aldi used to sell it there and probably still does…). In the gaps I put some cooked baby carrots. And now for the cheese… Slices of Old Amsterdam, a mature gouda, on top of the meat and grated Emmental over everything. Have I mentioned that I was using up leftovers? That’s why that pizza was slightly odd. But it tasted nice, the kids ate it and we had leftovers from the leftover pizza…
The pizza is baked in a preheated oven (210°C) for 25 minutes.

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The following day we indulged in various leftovers for lunch and I made a Saucy Monkey for dessert. I’d kept a cutting of that recipe for nearly ten years – or so I thought. When I came to making it, I couldn’t find it but there’s always Google… Get your recipe here since the only thing I changed was the amount of sugar in the sponge. I used about 60g. Actually, I changed something else. Mr Meike’s Kitchen isn’t keen on nuts so I replaced the Brazil nuts with desiccated coconut. (Don’t ask. I know.) We all thought it was a really nice dessert. I made it in a smaller dish than the one recommended in the recipe but that way you get a lovely thick sugar crust on top. I was a bit disappointed because I thought the butter, banana and sugar in the bottom of the dish would turn into more of a caramel-type sauce. It didn’t but it was still lovely and gooey. I tried it with some plain yoghurt instead of cream and that worked really well. I can also imagine custard or vanilla ice cream to complement it.

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