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Easy shortbread recipe

28 Aug

I’m no Great British Bake Off contestant, but I wanted to share my shortbread recipe. Super easy and super tasty. You need:

130g butter

60g caster sugar (and extra for sprinkling)

130g plain flour

130g cornflour

a dash of salt

an extract of vanilla pod

some grated fresh ginger

Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl, then add the flours and salt. Don’t worry if it looks crumbly at this point, it’s supposed to! Add the vanilla and ginger, then pack the mixture into a baking try lined with greaseproof paper. Chill the mixture for half an hour before baking for another half an hour until golden brown. Once cooked, leave to cool and sprinkle with the remaining sugar.

That’s it. Simple.

Simple shortbread with vanilla and ginger

Grasmere Gingerbread

24 Jun

The village of Grasmere is just a few miles down the road from where we were staying in Ambleside. Despite being taken here as a child (I’m pretty sure anyway) I had no idea the place was famous for gingerbread. One of my favourites.

I’m not talking gingerbread in the shape of a person. I’m talking, big, chunky, delicious slices of the stuff. The proper  home of the traditional gingerbread is Sarah Nelson’s Grasmere Gingerbread shop. It’s a tiny, twee little place where the friendly staff where uncomfortable looking, slightly cringy Victorian wear, complete with bonnets and aprons. Once the boy and I entered the shop, it was basically full, so I can imagine long queues down the street in the height of the tourist season. The shop and factory are both in this tiny building and the smell of ginger in there is amazing. The gingerbread is unbelievable, so tasty and light and much softer than the gingerbread we’re used to. Legend would have it that the secret recipe is locked in the vault of the Nat West bank in Ambleside.

Despite the olde worlde nature of the business, you can buy their gingerbread online – so it’s probably going to turn into a bit of an addiction! Watch this space…

I’ll never buy another gingerbread man again…

Apple Pie Bakery, Ambleside

16 Jun

The Apple Pie Bakery, Ambleside

I’ve just returned from a few days in the lovely Lake District. I’ll be honest, the countryside isn’t usually my sort of thing, but this week we were up for a bit of doing nothing, so we decided to give it a go. I surprised myself at how much I enjoyed the walking, which was interspersed with plenty of pub crawling and tea shop frequenting.

The best tea shop by far is the Apple Pie Bakery in Ambleside. I know this because we stayed just next door at Rooms at the Apple Pie. These four star rooms are absolute steal at £60 per night and come with everything you could possibly need: super comfortable king size bed, i pod docking station, flat screen TV, huge wine glasses and some scrummy complimentary ginger bread from the bakery next door. They’re right in the heart of the village too, just a stumble away from the best pubs and restaurants in the area.

Staying so close, we sampled as much as we could of the Apple Pie Bakery’s menu and were never disappointed. Local sausages and bacon for breakfast, sandwiches and scones for a mid-walk picnic and lots and lots of tasty cake. I can highly recommend the ginger cake whilst the boy is now in love with their bath buns – sweet pastry filled with dried fruit.

More of my Lake District foodie finds to follow…

Tasty treats in the window

Cooking with kids: a ‘train’ cake

10 Jun

These things never turn out the way you expect them to, but constructing the ‘train’ cake with the little one was fun nonetheless!

I say ‘train’ as opposed to just train, because with hindsight it could have been a little bit more realistic. But I liked it. And the boy thought it came to life, which was pretty cool.

I’ll not insult you by explaining the combination of swiss rolls, Cadbury’s mini rolls, baby doughnuts and buttercream required to piece this together. It’s fairly obvious. However, if you have a very sweet tooth and have a little one to keep entertained, I’d strongly recommend giving the ‘train’ cake a go.

All aboard…

Showers and sponges: cakes to reveal a baby’s sex

29 Apr

Just a quick post today on an article I very much enjoyed in today’s Observer. As a nation, we often jump on the bandwagon carrying the latest craze from across the pond, however ridiculous that load maybe. Be it dieting on baby food, religiously baking cupcakes or keeping fit to Zumba, we’ll eventually be taken down.

And I have a feeling the next one will be no exception. We’ve already succumb to baby showers, but taking it one step further, American mothers-to-be are now revealing the sex of their baby to their loved ones with a rather over-dramatic (in my humble opinion) cake cutting ceremony. Friends and family gathered, the knife comes out and the cake is sliced: pink sponge for a girl, blue sponge for a boy. It’s way too much for me!

Some parents are even asking the doctor who carries out that all important scan to seal the sex of the baby in an envelope, which is then passed straight to a cake-maker, so at the party, the sex is a surprise for even the parents. Seriously, is nothing private any more?

The Observer tells of some early UK adopters of this crazy craze, looking forward to watching how this one pans out…

So it's a girl then?

Iron Cupcake: Leeds

1 Apr

Sunday night cupcake tasting at the Adelphi? Go on then.

Forget the Sunday night blues, this evening I swapped homework for home baking, paying my first visit (why have I never been before?) to Leeds’ own iron cupcake competition.

Not quite yet brave enough to enter, tonight I played the roll of judge.  Armed with my ‘eater’ badge and favourite foodie friend in tow, I made my way around 13 batches of cupcakes, each with their own take on this month’s theme: Easter.

The cupcakes were to be marked on both appearance and taste and each interpreted Easter in a different way; from hot cross bun and simnel cake cupcakes, to sticky gooey, chocolatey Easter egg cupcakes. But they all got me in the mood for spring (and made me feel very nicely full.)

The winning cupcakes were a chocolate, Cadbury’s Creme Egg concoction, all put together in a delightful chick-tastic display that had clearly taken a lot of time and effort. They were yummy. But my personal favourite were a lemon and white chocolate variety, with colourful, flowered decorations. Coming in a respectable third, the lovely lady who baked them let me take the last one home!

Iron Cupcake competitions originated in the states and the lovely Zoe runs the Leeds-based battles with the help of her delightful mum, who even hands out baby wipes at the end for all those sticky fingers! Fabulous. The competitions are held monthly at the Adelphi in Leeds and I’ll certainly be there next month – although not sure yet whether my badge will say ‘baker’ or ‘eater.’

What I have learnt this weekend: people who bake professionally are the nicest people in the world.

These were my favourite...but the others were yummy too!

This Christmas I should have asked for…

1 Jan

Why is it that for weeks and weeks in the run up to the festive period when that dreaded question is asked; “what do you want for Christmas” all I get is a mental block. Brains are racked, websites scoured and friends interrogated, but Santa’s list gets more difficult to compose every year. Then, as soon as the turkey is troughed and tree taken down, a barrage of gift ideas spring to mind with a whole year to wait for them to arrive under the tree.

And today I decided that I should have asked for a waffle iron. These clever gadgets have featured during a number of festive TV shows I’ve watched whilst enjoying a cheeky tipple and have left my mouth-watering! Please remind me that this needs to be at the top of next year’s gift list.

Happy new year all!

My 2012 Christmas present!