Stone cakes

You may be thinking that these are somehow related to rock cakes. They’re not. The name came about when Granny made some cakes a while ago that she filled with jam and cream, and so when Andrew came to ask what they were called, she said “well, I guess we could call them scone cakes Andrew, because they’re a bit like scones with jam and cream”. Since then, Andrew has remembered, or so he thinks, the impromptu name of these cakes! We say ‘scone’ to rhyme with ‘stone’, and as the word with ’st’ is a frequent word in his vocab, that’s what’s stuck in his mind.

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When it was showering outside one afternoon this week, I asked Andrew if he wanted to do some baking whilst we waited for the shower to pass before going in the garden. His reply was a very enthusiastic YES! When I asked what he wanted to bake, his request was ‘stone cakes’. So that’s what we did. The recipe is very simple – a basic sponge, with some raisins (like a fruit scone), with a filling of jam and buttercream. Like so many bakes, I find simple turns out to be very tasty, and is perfect for getting little ones involved.

Stone cakes Collage jpg

Ingredients

  • 120g sugar
  • 120g butter (or margarine – I usually use marg but butter is what Granny has in for baking at their house where we’re living still)
  • 2 eggs
  • 120g self-rasiing flour
  • 60g raisins

Filling

  • Strawberry jam
  • 100g icing sugar
  • 50g butter

Method

  1. Prepare a muffin tin with cake cases (9-10), and preheat the oven to 180 C.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  3. Add the eggs and a little flour, to stop it curdling, and beat until well combined.
  4. Add the flour and raisins, and mix until the mixture is just combined and smooth.
  5. Spoon the mixture into the cake cases until 3/4 full.
  6. Bake for around 15-20 minutes, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cakes comes out clean.
  7. Leave to cool completely.
  8. Meanwhile, cream the butter and icing sugar together to make the buttercream icing.
  9. When the cakes are cool, cut a small, round piece out of the tip of each one.
  10. Place a teaspoon of jam and 2 teaspoons of buttercream in each hole, then replace the piece of cake that you cut out, as a kind of ‘lid’ (that’s how I explained it to Andrew when he helped me make them!)
  11. That’s it, they’re finished! Eat and enjoy 🙂

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Creative Challenge
Mini Creations

Mince pies with a twist

As it’s practically dark by the time the boys are awake from afternoon naps and we’ve got ready to go out, we can’t go to the park or even in the garden really, so baking and craft activities have been filling our late afternoons and early evenings recently. And as we’re in December, I thought it was time for some Christmas baking.

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I don’t eat loads of mince pies, but it’s always nice to have a few over the Christmas period, and as I’m trying to use up jars and tins in the cupboards, I thought it would be fun to add some stem ginger that I opened a while ago to the mince meat, to add extra favour and spice. I prefer to make mince pies with unsweetened pastry, because the mince meat itself is so sweet, and to add another flavour I decided to put some cinnamon in with the flour. Finally, I added a splash of Amaretto to the filling, again because the bottle I have could do with using up having sat there untouched for a while since we’ve had kids.

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Andrew enjoys rolling out pastry, so that was also a good reason to make pies, and he helped me cut out the rounds and put them in the muffin tins – we went for deep filled pies rather than the little ones you can make in fairy cake tins.

If you’d like to give these a go, here’s the recipe….

Ingredients – makes 10 deep fill pies

Filling

  • 400g jar of mincemeat
  • about 4 chunks of stem ginger, cut into small cubes
  • optional: splash of Amaretto (or any other alcohol that you like)
Pastry
  • 100g unsalted butter
  • 225g plain flour
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • cold water

Method

  1. Lightly grease the holes in a muffin tin, and preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan).
  2. Put the flour and cinnamon in a bowl and mix until evenly distributed.
  3. Chop the butter into smallish chunks (make sure it’s as cold as possible) and toss into the flour.
  4. Use your hands to work the butter into the flour until it resembles bread crumbs.
  5. Add a small amount of water at a time and mix until it starts to form a stiff dough, then leave to one side whilst you mix the filling.
  6. Mix the ingredients for the filling together in another bowl.
  7. Take the pastry and roll out on a floured surface.
  8. Cut 10 larger circles and 10 smaller circles to fit the size of the muffin tin holes.
  9. Place the larger circles in the holes, fill with the filling, then places the lids on top, sealing with a bit of cold water run around the rim and the pastry pieces pressed together.
  10. Bake in the oven for about 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is lightly golden.
  11. Leave to cool in the tins, before turning out with the help of a sharp knife to loosen them from the tin.
  12. Eat as fresh as possible, and they can also be frozen.

Easter bunny Simnel biscuits

We’ve been busy little bunnies in the baking and crafting departments this week. There have been fewer groups due to the holidays, so I’ve been thinking of ways to keep Andrew amused. I can’t really go wrong with baking, especially biscuits as he loves cutting them out and of course tasting them 🙂 Granny was with us yesterday when we baked these bunny biscuits, and we made them with wheat-free flours so that Grandma can enjoy them too.IMG_0582

There seem to be quite a few Easter cakes in the shops now that are basically slightly different versions of brands that are available all year, usually involving lemon or yellow colouring in some way, for example Mr Kipling lemon tarts or Cadbury’s lemon mini rolls or Jaffa Cakes lemon cake bars. But I rarely see Simnel cakes around these days – a light fruit cake with spices such as cinnamon and ginger and a layer of marzipan in the middle and on top. I love marzipan and I like fruit cakes, so I enjoy Simnel cake. Traditionally it has 11 balls of marzipan on the top, which are said to represent the 11 disciples of Jesus minus Judas who betrayed him.IMG_0585

We didn’t have the time or attention span (in Andrew’s case) to make fruit cake, so we made biscuits based on the idea of Simnel cake. The spices are in the biscuit dough and the fruit is sandwiched between the biscuit and a layer of marzipan on top. We used a bunny shape cutter, although I was convinced I had seen an egg-shaped cutter in Andrew’s bumper pot of cutters when we were doing play-dough the other day, but I couldn’t find it when we came to bake the biscuits, so we had to switch from the egg-shaped biscuits that I had intended to make  originally. bunnies

If you fancy having a go, here’s the recipe, which makes about 20….

Ingredients

  • 60g sugar
  • 120g margarine
  • 180g flour (I used 60g cornflour and 120g gluten-free flour)
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp groung nutmeg
  • about 30g raisins
  • 1/2 pack ready to roll marzipan

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 150ºC (fan) and prepare two baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar until smooth and fluffy.
  3. Add the flour and spices and mix with a spoon until a dough starts to form; then use your hands to bring it together as it gets too stiff for the spoon.
  4. Roll out the dough to about 1/2cm thick on the greaseproof paper that you put on the baking trays, and cut out the biscuit shapes. That way, when you’ve cut out the shapes, they are already on the place where they will be baked, and you avoid breaking them in transferring to the paper once cut out.
  5. Once you’ve cut out all the dough, press a few raisins onto the top of each bunny.
  6. Bake in the oven for about 25 minutes until lightly golden.
  7. Remove and allow to cool.
  8. Roll out the marzipan on a lightly floured board to about 1/2cm thick.
  9. Cut out the same number of shapes as the biscuits, and place on top of the biscuits, sandwiching the raisins between the biscuit and marzipan layer.
  10. Eat as fresh as possible!

Pancakes: cheesy-leek and choccy-cherry

Wow, it’s Shrove Tuesday again already! Where did that year go?! I know it’s not quite a whole year since last year’s Pancake Day, but still I can’t quite believe what’s happened since. I distinctly remember last year’s Shrove Tuesday because I had just done a couple of pregnancy tests which had come out positive and I was about to embark on months of feeling and being sick. So this year I intended to enjoy my pancakes, and enjoy them a lot!

For tea we had some savoury and sweet pancakes. This week in our veg box we got a couple of leeks (amongst other items), so they formed the basis of our savoury pancakes, sautéed until crispy and mixed with some cheese – a good flavour combination I think. As our protein for the meal, I added a tin of tuna. And to complement these flavours I added some mixed green herbs to the pancake batter. There was some chocolate ganache left over from some cupcakes that we baked recently (blog post to follow), so that became an indulgent filling along with some dried cherries for our sweet treat pancakes. I convinced Andrew that you (or rather ‘he’) only needs a small amount of the chocolate to taste it – any more chocolate an hour before bed could have led to disaster! i love red fruits with chocolate, I think they work really well, but this time of year they’re not in season and I find the ones you can get in the shops now, which are grown abroad, don’t have the same flavour as local ones in the summer, plus they are expensive. So the dried ones that we buy as snacks for Andrew gave us the intense cherry flavour to go with the chocolate.

Here’s how I made each filling, along with the pancake batters that I whipped up…..

Ingredients

Pancake batters

  • 120g plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 75ml water
  • 2 tbsp mixed herbs added to savoury batter
  • 2 tbsp chocolate sprinkles added to sweet batter
  • butter or margarine to fry

Cheesy-leek filling

  • knob of butter or margarine
  • 2 small leeks, chopped
  • 75g cheese, grated – I used cheddar because that’s what we had in, but you can use any cheese you like really as long as it melts in nicely.
  • 1 standard tin of tuna (optional)
  • black pepper

Choccy-cherry filling

  • 90g dried cherries (this was the size of the pack we had and we ate it all between us)
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 50ml double cream
I used the ganache that was left over from cupcake icing – there was about one third left of what was originally 150g chocolate and 150ml cream.

Method

Batter

  1. Use a blender – either a jug one on its own base or a stick one in a jug that’s at least a pint in size – to blend all the batter ingredients together. I just shove them all in together in no particular order and then start blending once they’re all in the jug.
  2. Transfer half the batter to another jug and add the chocolate sprinkles; add the herbs to the original jug.
Cheesy-leek filling
  1. Heat the butter/margarine for the leek filling in a large frying pan and fry the leeks until they are nicely browned and soft.
  2. Take off the heat and stir through the tin of tuna and grated cheese until the cheese is just melting.
  3. Season with black pepper to taste.
Choccy-cherry filling
  1. Heat the chocolate and cream in a small saucepan on a low heat whilst stirring, until the chocolate has melted and mixed with the cream completely.
  2. Take off the heat and whisk for a couple of minutes until it becomes thicker and glossier.
  3. Leave to cool and thicken in the fridge.
  4. Put the chocolate filling into a piping bag.

Assembling all together – I did the previous three sections of prep earlier in the day or week so we were ready to roll (or rather flip!) in the evening for tea (I just heated the cheesy leeks in the microwave to serve).

  1. Heat the butter/margarine in a frying pan until it’s sizzling – I use quite a small one as I find smaller pancakes easier to handle, but you can use whatever size pan you want your finished pancakes to be.
  2. Pour some batter into the pan, enough to give a fairly thin pancake, and swirl the pan around so that the batter goes right to the edges.
  3. Cook for a few minutes, checking the underside every now and then, using a fish slice to lift the pancake edge up slightly, until it looks nicely brown underneath.
  4. Then for the flip! If you’re brave, flip it into the air directly from the pan and catch it so the uncooked side is now facing down. If like me you’re a pancake wuss, use the fish slice to flip it over in the pan.
  5. Cook for a few more minutes until the new underside is nicely browned.
  6. Take out of the pan and fill immediately with your filling – spoon some cheesy-leek filling into the centre, or pipe some chocolate filling and add a handful of dried cherries into the centre, and roll up the pancake.
  7. Eat immediately whilst still hot – Tom and I take it in turns to fry a pancake and eat one, rather than cooking them all and then eating them. We find this adds to the fun of our Shroce Tuesday tea-time.
  8. Yummy yummy (as Andrew said)!

Brownie and blondie hearts

I wanted to bake something special for Tom this week. Partly because it’s Valentine’s day coming up, though we don’t usually go in much for this over-commercialised excuse for card shops and chocolate manufacturers to make a killing, and mainly because I wanted to show him that I appreciate all his help this week whilst I’ve been poorly and he’s done even more around the flat and looking after the boys than usual. When I asked him a while ago what kind of cake he likes the most when I bake, he said ‘anything chocolatey…. well, anything at all, but anything chocolatey in particular’! So chocolate was on my mind when deciding what to bake this week.

I hadn’t made brownies for a while, and I’d also bought some white chocolate recently (some of which I used on the Thomas the Tank Engine cake), so I came up with the idea of making some classic brownies with dark chocolate and some blondies with white chocolate. As I looked in the cupboard for flour, I realised that I still have some wheat-free self-raising flour that I bought a while ago when I baked some cupcakes for my mum-in-law who came to stay (she is wheat intolerant) and it really could do with being used, so that got added to the mix rather than the usual wheaty variety. I find the wheat-free stuff has quite a distinctive flavour but when you mix it with plenty of strong (particularly dark) chocolate, this is less noticeable. Another thing about wheat-free cakes is that they tend to be stodgier and less light and airy than their wheaty counterparts, but brownies are supposed to be stodgy, so they work well with wheat-free flour.

A brownie and blondie circle - the lighter coloured blondies are ones that I shaped into hearts from the very gooey trimmings using the biscuit cutter as a mould

Cutting the brownies and blondies into hearts was slightly tricky and I didn’t get that many which came out in a clear heart shape because they were so soft and gooey – as they should be in my opinion – even after some chilling in the freezer. The blondies turned out even gooier than the brownies – maybe something to do with the consistency of white chocolate compared to dark chocolate, or maybe the different tins that I used to cook them in. I used some of the very gooey trimmings from the blondies to shape into hearts using the biscuit cutter as a mould. But we ate all the trimmings so none of it went to waste.

If you fancy having a go for Valentine’s day, or any other day, here’s the recipe…..

Ingredients

Brownies

  • 2 eggs
  • 140g sugar
  • 70g self-raising flour (wheat-free optional)
  • 100g dark chocolate
  • 70g margarine
  • 50g chopped nuts

Blondies

  • 2 eggs
  • 140g sugar
  • 70g self-raising flour (wheat-free optional)
  • 100g white chocolate
  • 70g margarine
  • 50g dried strawberries

Method – the same for both types

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160ºC (fan), and prepare a cake tin – for the brownies I used I rectangular swiss roll tin lined with greaseproof paper and for the blondies I used a round silicone cake mould as I wanted to compare how both turned out.
  2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl.
  3. Mix in the sugar and flour until well combined.
  4. Stir in the chopped nuts / dried strawberries until evenly distributed.
  5. Melt the margarine and chocolate in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water, then add it to the rest of the mixture and stir until smooth.
  6. Pour into a cake tin and bake for about 30 minutes until a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Ideally you want them still gooey, if you like them that way at least, so don’t overdo it in the oven – there’s a very fine line between being raw and overdone for brownies.
  7. Allow to cool to room temperature in the tin, then use a heart-shaped biscuit cutter to cut some hearts; before removing them from the tin, place in the freezer for about half an hour to firm up the brownie/blondie a little so that the hearts are easier to get out in one piece.
  8. Eat as fresh as possible, or leave in the freezer until you want to eat them at a later date (as if…!)
Link up your recipe of the week

 

Milk-making flapjacks

As I was flicking through our Cook with Kids book by Rob Kirby, I came across a recipe for ‘super fit flapjacks’. Instead of just being oats, butter, sugar and syrup, these included various dried fruits and seeds. I didn’t actually have many of the fruit and seeds in the recipe, but it inspired me to make some flapjacks with some of the unusual dried fruit – golden berries and cranberries mix – that I bought recently because it was on offer in the supermarket and the seeds that I had in the cupboard – sesame and caraway.

In a previous baking blog post, I wrote about the fact that caraway seeds are supposed to be a galactagogue – something that stimulates breast-milk production. Oats are also supposed to be a galactagogue, hence the name for the flapjacks that I ended up creating. As well as being good for milk making purposes, flapjacks are in general a good source of energy, particularly with the dried fruit and seeds in, and energy is something I really need at the moment. I find that I get peckish in the night with all the feeding Joel does, so these are great to nibble on in the early hours. The high seed content makes these like a cross between sesame snaps (though softer) and traditional oaty flapjacks. 

Even if you’re not trying to induce or increase lactation, these flapjacks are a delicious treat and will keep you going if you’re in need of energy for another reason. Here’s the recipe if you’d like to have a go. It’s very easy and it took Andrew and me about 10 minutes to make plus cooking time.

Ingredients

  • 125g brown sugar
  • 90g margarine
  • 90g honey
  • 175g oats
  • 100g dried friut (I used 60g sultanas, 40g mixed cranberries and golden berries)
  • 100g seeds (I used 60g sesame seeds, 40g caraway seeds)

Method

  1. Start by lining a square or rectangular baking tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Put the oats, fruit and seeds in a big bowl, and stir until well mixed.
  3. Melt the sugar, margarine and honey in a bowl in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water on the hob.
  4. Add the melted ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until well combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake in the oven at 160ºC (fan) for about 10-15 mins until golden on top.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before cutting into squares, as the flapjack needs to harden as it cools.
  7. Store in an airtight container (next to your bed if you’re me!)

Red fruit Chelsea Buns (inspired by the Great British Bake Off, episode 7)

I made sure that I really appreciated watching this week’s episode of the Great British Bake Off (GBBO), even more than I normally do, because it cost us quite a bit of money to download, as we’d got to the limit on our monthly broadband package and ended up paying a pay as you go mobile 3G rate, which soon adds up when you’re talking about hour-long downloads. Oops! It is a bit ridiculous that we even have to have mobile broadband in such a built up area, but we just couldn’t get a decent speed through the phone line, and Virgin won’t dig up our road (I know, hard to believe, but they won’t, we’ve asked more than once!)

So I was determined to make time this weekend, despite being out for most of the day on Saturday, to bake Tom something nice, to try and make up for my expensive downloading. This week’s bakes were all about sweet dough. The first was on the theme of regional buns (for example, Bath buns, Lardy cakes, Saffron cakes, and of course Chelsea buns); the second bake was jam doughnuts (which looked very hard to make, and we don’t have a deep fat fryer); the third bake was a celebration loaf (for example, Brioche or Stollen). I made a Stollen at Christmas, and the contestants mostly seemed to be proving their doughs for the third bake overnight, so I thought that a celebration loaf wasn’t a great option for my limited time this weekend. Instead I went for a regional bun that I’ve thought about making a few times, but never got round to it – the Chelsea bun.

In Cambridge there is a famous cake shop called Fitzbillies that makes the most amazing Chelsea buns – they are their own secret recipe. When the original Fitzbillies shop had to close down in the bad economic climate, many people, including comedian Stephen Fry who tweeted about it, were gutted to lose the place to buy these lovely buns. I can’t say that I bought them that often, because they were pretty expensive, but I did on a few occasions as a treat, and was sad to hear about this independent cake shop closing down. However, I was then very happy to learn, actually again through twitter, that new owners had bought the Fitzbillies shop and were doing it up in order to re-open under the same name. The icing on the cake (pun intended) was that they had even managed to gain the secret recipe for Chelsea buns along with their purchase, so the famous buns would be back in town in no time! Hooray! And I went and bought one or two not long after they first opened.

Not that I’m aiming to make anything quite as special as theirs (I don’t know what it is about them specifically that makes them so yummy, it’s a secret, clearly), but I’d often thought about having a go at baking some Chelsea buns that were at least good enough to eat. Whilst looking through our dried fruit container, to see how much we had and whether I needed to buy any more to make the buns, I remembered that I had recently bought some more unusual dried fruit for Andrew to eat as a snack as a change from his raisins, which included raspberries and cherries. These made me think that baking Chelsea buns with a bit of a twist from the usual fruits would go down well, so I went for them instead of raisins/sultanas/currants.

The recipe I used for the dough was from the BBC Food website, and it turns out that it’s actually from another series of the GBBO. Here’s a link to the recipe. I adapted it (as always!) to include red fruits (raspberries and cherries) instead of the usual dried fruits, and I decided to bake the buns close together (see picture below) rather than spread apart on a baking sheet because I like the squarer, more compacted together shape for Chelsea buns than perfectly round and crusted all the way round, I guess because they remind me of Ftizbillies’ famous ones – they have a square-ish shape to them. I found there wasn’t a lot of glaze for the amount of ingredients that the recipe said to put in, so if you like them sticky and extra sweet, I’d probably double or treble it. I quite like the fact that they’re not as sickly sweet as the Fitzbillies ones, because my sweet tooth has definitely been affected by pregnancy.

I wouldn’t win any prizes for the most consistent baker, who makes buns all perfectly the same size and shape, but the main thing is that the taste and texture are good. It’s quite handy actually that some are smaller than others (due to the shape of the rolled out dough, which ended up creating a roll that was thinner at both ends than in the middle), because the smaller ones are a perfect snack size for Andrew. He had one more or less straight from the oven, once they’d cooled down enough to eat – ‘hot’ is one of his favourite words, and he knows to wait until food is no longer too ‘HOT, HOT’! My other boy approved too, so I feel less bad about the fact that it cost us more than a few pennies to watch the episode of the GBBO that inspired this bake.

Fruity flapjacks

I always seem to have a story behind what I bake, and this post is no exception. I was encouraged at the BritMums blogging conference that I recently went to when a top blogger (I can’t remember which one, I must find my notes and link to his/her blog!) said that this is what he/she liked to read in a good food blog post – the story behind the recipe, not just the recipe itself. I hope you find these little stories I tell before a recipe interesting!

A couple of things prompted me to think about baking some flapjacks. First, on Friday we went to our usual breastfeeding support group, and as usual I volunteered to take some snacks. Unfortunately I didn’t have many ingredients in to bake anything quick and easy, so I ended up popping by the local shop on the way, where there wasn’t a great choice of cakes/biscuits. I decided a tray bake of flapjack was the best choice. When I tried some later at the group, I thought it wasn’t bad, but was a classic bought flapjack – very sweet and golden syrup-y, and quite solid. I like home-made flapjack that is less overpoweringly sweet and more crumbly. So when we went shopping later that day I thought I’d get the thing I needed to make the kind of flapjack I like – honey!

I said above that there were a couple of things that prompted me to think about baking flapjacks. The other was the fact that I have half a bag of oatmeal that’s been sitting in the cupboard for a while. I used to love porridge made with oatmeal, but I went off it in early pregnancy, probably because I was sick on it and I found it quite stodgy for my stomach when I was feeling so nauseous. These days the nausea isn’t there in the morning, but I guess I don’t feel like eating something that reminds me of feeling sick. So this half-eaten bag of oatmeal has been sitting around doing nothing, and one idea I had of using it in something other than porridge was flapjacks. I usually make them with just whole oats, but this time I tried using 3/4 oats and 1/4 oatmeal.

The texture turned out really well, just how I like it, firm enough that the pieces of flapjack don’t disintegrate, but crumbly enough that they melt in your mouth rather than being quite chewy. Most of the sweetness comes from honey, which is a sweetness I’m more into at the moment than sugar in the form of actual sugar or golden syrup. They’re still a bit too sweet for Andrew to eat lots of it, but I have let him have the odd corner of mine here and there. I find flapjack a good source of energy when I’m feeling so drained from everything I’m doing and just need a bit of a pick-me-up; the oats keep me going for a while, so it’s not all about a quick sugar hit!

Ingredients

  • 125g margarine
  • 150g oats
  • 50g oatmeal
  • 40g brown sugar
  • 100g honey
  • 50g sultanas

Method

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC (fan) and line a shallow cake tin with greaseproof paper.
  2. Melt the margarine, honey and sugar together in a bowl, either in the microwave or over a pan of boiling water.
  3. Add the oats, oatmeal and sultanas to the molten ingredients and stir until well combined.
  4. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and spread it out to fill the tin.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes, until golden and still soft.
  6. Take out of the oven and allow to cool a little in the tin.
  7. Before they’re completely cool, cut into squares however big/small you like.
  8. Leave to cool completely in the tin, then remove and store in an airtight container until they’re all eaten 🙂

Oat and raisin cookies

It’s been a while since I baked or cooked anything. I found out when we went away at Easter that the smell of cooking is a definite trigger for me to be sick. I hadn’t realised at home just how much of a difference this made in the evenings, and it was only when we went out for dinner one evening on holiday (I didn’t eat much or stay long at the pub) that I realised I was sick less often when I went back to the house that nobody had cooked in that evening. Since then we have eaten cold stuff: salads, bread, cheese, cold meats – that kind of thing. I’m just about able to tolerate smelling a small portion of something that was already cooked and frozen (by us before pregnancy or by Granny) heated in the microwave for Andrew at lunchtime, so he has one cooked meal a day, and Tom helpfully gets a cooked lunch provided every weekday at work. One thing I have found possible is cooking a pizza for 10 minutes first thing in the morning when I’m feeling at my best for the day, and then we eat it cold later in the day. I open some windows and the smell soon goes away and we always go out anyway after it’s done.

The other day I thought it was time that I tested whether I can stand the smell of baking, and although I wasn’t overly fussed about eating freshly baked goods like I usually am, I wanted to take some along to our La Leche League breastfeeding support group coffee morning. So I went for it. I decided on something quite plain, that was quick and easy: these oat and raisin cookies did just the job. They took about 10 minutes to mix up and about 12 minutes to bake. Handily the doors and windows were open in the flat anyway due to the lovely weather. I can’t say that I enjoyed it as much as usual, but it was worth the experience, and although I won’t be rushing to do it again soon, it wasn’t a complete disaster. I still don’t think I’d cope any time later in the day at the moment. At least the cookies were a real hit at the coffee morning, and I got lots of good comments from my friends and mums I’d never met there before, which made it even more worthwhile 🙂 If you’d like to have a go, here’s the recipe….

Ingredients

  • 120g margarine
  • 80g brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 60g self-raising flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 120g oats
  • 150g raisins

Method

  1. Line a couple of baking trays with greaseproof paper.
  2. Cream the margarine and sugar together in a bowl.
  3. Beat in the egg.
  4. Mix in the flour, baking powder and vanilla essence, until everything is well combined.
  5. Mix in the oats and raisins until well combined and evenly spread throughout mixture.
  6. Dollop small-ish blobs onto lined baking trays (I got 13 cookies out of the mixture), spread apart.
  7. Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for about 12 minutes until golden brown.
  8. Remove from oven, let cool and eat as fresh as possible.
  • Note: suitable for toddlers, but you might want to keep little hands away if you want any left for yourself 😉 (see below…)
  1. Little hands sneaking their way into the photo, ready to grab at any moment!

Soft oaty rounds (à la Organix)

A while ago I bought a few packs of Organix soft oaty bars for Andrew. They were on BOGOF at the supermarket, which made them a reasonable price, and they are handy to take out with us for a snack. He absolutely loves them, and they are so easy for him to eat. Organix have a ‘no junk’ policy, and basically they only have oats, fruit and a bit of sunflower oil in them. Since my first purchase, I don’t seem to have found them on offer again, and at their full price, I’m not sure I want to buy them (sorry Organix, we’re on a budget). So I thought, if they only have a few ingredients in, and they’re all natural, surely I can figure out how to bake something similar myself. And that’s what I did.

They turned out very well, so I’ll definitely be making some more of these. I used muffin molds, so they turned out as ’rounds’, not bars. It’s a bit more of a faff to take one out with us, as I can’t just grab one of the cupboard and shove it in my bag. I’ll have to get into the habit of grabbing a small plastic box instead and putting one into it. This recipe made 8.

Ingredients

  • 100g instant oat cereal (brand name = Ready Brek)
  • 70g raisins, chopped
  • 100ml fruit puree (you can make your own by whizzing up any fruit you have, or I had a few pots of ready made stuff left over from when Andrew was first having solids and we were trying to introduce various flavours without buying all the separate fruits and having to prep them all separately before combining)
  • 20ml olive oil

Method

  1. Pretty easy really, just shove all the ingredients in a bowl and mix until well combined.
  2. Press the mixture firmly into a tray of muffin molds, so each mold is about half full.
  3. Bake at 170ºC for about 15 minutes until nicely golden and still soft to touch.
  4. Allow to cool in the molds – they will firm up whilst cooling.
  5. Once cool, remove from tray and store in airtight container.