Friday, 28 August 2015

Teabread and Cookies

Inspired by all that incredible bread making in last week's
Bake Off, I wanted to have a go, too. I had Chelsea buns in mind, but
the rest of the family wanted lemon squares. I couldn't quite decide
what to bake: lemon squares? Chelsea buns? Then I spied some
over ripe bananas in the fruit bowl and decided to make something
completely different. So there's no bread making this week, nor any lemony bake, what we have instead is Mary Berry's Banana and
 Honey teabread.

This turned out to be a good one to bake. The girls really enjoyed
helping out. There were plenty for them to get involved in- mashing
 the bananas,  rubbing the butter in with the flour and afterwards,
brushing the top of the cooked teabread with warmed honey.

I like that the girls had fun making this so no regrets about the
Chelsea buns. The teabread itself wasn't bad either. It's more dense
 than our usual banana loaf and full of interesting flavours with
 ground nutmeg, lemon zest and honey in the mix. 

We didn't have sugar cubes or nibbed sugar for the topping and
used demerara sugar instead. I always like a sugary, crunchy top
 and the demerara was a good substitute I think.

We all loved this teabread. It was gone the next day so we had
to do some more baking. I decided to try a new cookie recipe-
White Chocolate and Pecan Nut from The Hummingbird Bakery
Cookbook . Well, a version of it really. We couldn't find any pecans
 in the shops so ours turned out as White Chocolate and Hazelnut cookies.

I'm sure they'd taste differently with pecans but we're happy
with these. They're soft and chewy and not too sweet. It's one
of those recipes where you have to freeze the dough first before
baking and that was a bit too long to wait for two excited girls. But
we'll make these again and next time with the pecan nuts hopefully.

Did you enjoy this week's Bake Off?   I thought the wind torte (?)
they had to make in the technical challenge looked so dainty
and pretty. I hope some brides-to-be out there were watching
and make it their wedding cake.

Have a great weekend everyone!

PS. I still haven't given up on the Chelsea buns!

Monday, 24 August 2015

Camping: Take Two

These are photos from our camping trip two weekends ago. It was
our second time and we were back in the same campsite in the
 beautiful Derbyshire countryside. We even pitched our tent at the
same spot as last time. But lots of things were a bit different
this time round. For one, we packed better, just taking the things
we knew we'd use. Tent pitching was quicker and even just getting
to the campsite took less time. We had a better night's sleep too,
even though we still didn't have an air mattress. The camp wasn't
as busy so it was a lot quieter and having arrived earlier, we had
 more time for playing and exploring in nearby fields. We've learned
a lot from last time and it had made this an altogether better, even
more relaxing camping experience.

We had another gorgeous walk up Stanton Moor, and another
moment to marvel at the beautiful landscape. I don't think I'll
ever tire of that wonderful purple view up the moor. I'm ever so
glad we chose to camp nearby, or we wouldn't have known about
this amazing place at all.

I'm very glad too that we've had another go at camping. We're
loving it even more and who knows, we might manage to squeeze
in a third time before summer finally comes to a close. There's
still a week and a bit to go before school starts so if the weather
plays nice this weekend we'll definitely be out there again. And
hopefully next time with an air mattress, rather than without!

Hope you're all having a good start to the week.
See you soon!

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Courgettes Not Carrots

It's the second week of our Bake Off challenge and we've made
 Nigella's courgette cake.

Baking with courgettes is something new to me. Carrots? Yes.
But courgettes? No. Not even when we have to help use up the
glut from my father in law's allotment nearly every summer and
we're always looking for new ways to cook with them.

 But I know that cakes with courgettes can be lovely and moist;
I thought we should give it a go. We had most of the ingredients
already, so why not try it? It is something new and a bit different
 and this, after all, is what our little baking challenge is all about.

So we started off by grating the courgettes and then mixing the other
cake ingredients together before baking for half an hour.

It is very much like carrot cake: it has vegetable oil, sultanas and
the same cream cheese frosting, although it has lemon curd with
some lime juice for the filling.

It is also similar to carrot cake in taste and texture- very moist
and lovely, but it is more lemony because of the filling.

I really like this cake and Markie is a big fan too. She's says she only likes carrots but she doesn't seem to mind that this has courgettes,
 even when she can see little green flecks of this totally different
vegetable all over the cake. Lulu, on the other hand, hates it. Her
reaction when I was folding in the grated courgettes was less than enthusiastic. But I bet she won't be able to resist a chocolate version
 of this cake. We'll try that one out next time we have some of
 Grandad's homegrown courgettes. We're expecting more gifts 
from his allotment soon.

Hope you enjoyed the Bake Off last night. Those bread sculptures
were amazing! Enjoy the rest of your week!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Bake Off Challenge: Goosebery and Honey Cake

Now that the The Great British Bake Off is back, I've decided to have
a little Bake Off challenge of my own. The idea for this came from
the lovely Marianne of Ladybird Diaries. Every week throughout the
new series I'm going to bake something new. I'm currently feeling inspired to try out some new recipes, to be a little bit more
adventurous with my baking and I think that the next ten or eleven
 weeks while The Bake Off is on will be the best time to do this.
I'll get inspiration and encouragement from the programme and
I just think it will be great fun too.

So to kick start my Bake Off Challenge I chose Gooseberry and Honey
Cake from the June issue of The Simple Things magazine. 

If you'd asked me a few years ago if I know what gooseberries are
I'd honestly tell you that I have no idea. I only got to taste and like 
these soft fruits about two or three years ago when my father-in-law
started growing them in his allotment. They can be a little tart but when
 they're fully ripe they're lovely and sweet and perfect for summer 
crumbles. I didn't know they can be added in cakes too so I was really eager to try this recipe.

Baking this was straightforward and easy. What was interesting for 
me were the ingredients: instead of the usual sugar, it has honey
and two tablespoons of elderberry cordial to make it sweet and
there's no flour, just ground almonds.  

I think it turned out well. The texture is nice and moist although
it's a little bit greasy. The honey and elderberry cordial were effective
sugar substitutes. I was tempted to sprinkle icing sugar on the top to 
make it less plain looking but decided not to. Maybe next time I will. 

You've also probably noticed that my version is slightly thinner 
compared with the magazine's. It's because I didn't have the required 
baking tin and used one that was a little bit bigger. As for the gooseberries, I think they add a nice, sweet flavour and texture
 to the cake although I think it can do with maybe 50grams more.

So a baking success? Not quite, I think. Because even though the
girls and I like, it my husband's not particularly taken by it. Maybe
he'll enjoy it more with a dollop of creme fraiche as it's suggested
in the magazine. But it has fulfilled my criteria of baking something
 new so I'm still very pleased. I'm now looking forward to my next challenge. Bread, maybe? We'll see!

Hope you're all having a good week. Enjoy tonight's
Bake Off! 

Monday, 10 August 2015

Going Camping

We went camping for the first time this week. I wasn't sure
I'd like it much being so fond of my creature comforts. I was only
 giving it a go because my husband had convinced me that it's a nice thing to do as a family and that we'll all have a great time. And he was
right: it was great fun and we all really enjoyed it, myself included.

No one was more surprised than me, to be honest with you. I was
quite sure it's not really for me but I enjoyed it so much I couldn't
wait for us to go camping again. Yes, I know, I'm now one of those
camping converts, and a very happy one too.

I couldn't not like camping. We were in a lovely, family friendly
  campsite surrounded by beautiful Derbyshire countryside. We had
 fresh air, sunshine, a pitched tent and a lit barbecue. The girls were
 off playing with other kids, I was sitting in the sunshine with
 my crochet, the burgers and hotdogs were cooking. Later after
we'd put the girls to bed, we sat outside and watched the stars
come out. It was all simply glorious. It would have been very
churlish of me not to enjoy the experience.

And next morning after we've had our breakfast we walked up
Stanton Moor, a Peak District landmark very close to the campsite.
It was so gorgeous up there we were totally gobsmacked.

The only thing that wasn't fun was not sleeping on a proper mattress.
The girls slept well but we didn't so we've now decided to invest in
a good air mattress. That will surely improve things. And next time
 we'll be better and quicker at spotting the best place to pitch the tent and packing will be easier too.

Yes, we're already planning for our next camping trip. If we can
go before the summer holidays end and experience all that fun and freedom again, I'd say, yes, please. We're going camping!

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Seaside Days

We had our holiday in Robin Hood's Bay last week. We were there
for a whole week and, as in every stay and every visit, we were
 very happy and we had the loveliest time.

We did all the usual things: building sand castles, beach combing,
exploring rock pools, fossil hunting and paddling in the sea. All
simple but full of fun.

We also did some new things this time. We had a barbecue one
 evening near the top of the village looking out to the sea and we
 walked as far as Boggle Hole at the southern end of the bay.
We've never been before and were quite delighted by the old
 smugglers cove and the newly refurbished youth hostel there, particularly the cafe. I also managed a spot of crochet in
the sunshine, working on the first two rows of another
Honeycomb Lace shawl

There was one afternoon when it was too wet and windy to be outdoors
and we stayed in. Our holiday cottage was a cozy home away from home. But mostly when it rained it wasn't too bad.  With wellies and anoraks, we carried on as usual by the shore.

No holiday in the coast is complete without a trip to Whitby and
we went a couple of times. We parked near the Abbey and walked
 down the 199 steps to the Shambles.

Wandering down a little street we found the best smoked kippers
 in town. We love a breakfast with eggs and kippers on seaside
 holidays and these were fantastic. And the girls were brilliant walking
down and up again on those many steps to the Abbey. I was very impressed with them actually.

We really loved this holiday by the sea. Our days were easy and
 carefree, and we were able to relax. I don't think we'll ever tire of
going to this part of the Yorkshire Coast.

 The village in Robin Hood's Bay is only small but its higgledy
 piggledy lanes and old stone cottages are lovely and charming.
The beach and the surrounding countryside are beautiful too.
 The bay's history (it's smugglers and shipwrecks galore) as well
as the geography make it a place we're interested in and
we're happy to be at for days and weeks.

Maybe when the kids are older we'll travel farther for holidays,
maybe even go abroad. For now though we're just happy to keep
going back to the same place year after year.

We didn't go on family vacations when I was a child so I really
treasure these holidays I'm able to have now with my own family.
 And I feel lucky that we've found somewhere to go back to every year,
 a sort of home away from home where we can relive happy memories
every time we return. We're not planning yet when we'll go back
but we know that sometime over the next twelve months we'll be
in Robin Hood's Bay again. We'll be doing the usual things and
 for sure it will be another lovely holiday.