Category Archives: Homemade

Cheat’s Chocolate Fudge: a five minute recipe

Chocolate FudgeI made this with Scrip on one of our afternoons together after a half day at school. She’s always loved baking and sometimes we need a quick, simple recipe that doesn’t involve a sink full of washing up (but that leaves a very lickable spoon). She does tend to ask about tasting whatever it is as soon as we get the ingredients out but she managed to control herself during this one (and I did, too).

This is fab – it uses store cupboard ingredients and makes an impressive-looking fudge. I can’t pretend it’s up to true Cornish fudge standards (mmm Roskilly’s) but it’s tasty and moreish (best to cut it into small pieces). It’s also easy to halve the mixture and still get a decent amount. Enjoy.

Ingredients

500g (1lb 2oz) icing sugar
50g (2oz) cocoa powder
50mll (2fl oz) milk
50g (2oz) cold butter, chopped (mine was actually room temperature)
Large handful of roasted and salted peanuts or raisins

Method

Put the icing sugar and cocoa powder into a large microwave-safe bowl; whisk to combine. Add milk and chopped butter and cook on full power (800W) for 2 minutes. Meanwhile, line a tin or serving dish roughly 15cm x 25cm (6in x 10in) with baking parchment.

Whisk the hot mixture until smooth (it will thicken as you do so), then stir in the nuts or raisins. Empty into the lined tin, level the surface and chill for at least 20 minutes before cutting into small chunks.

I originally found this recipe in Good Housekeeping. Another five minute recipe favourite is my chocolate oaty slices.

Guest post: Goodness gracious great balls of dough 

Bread making collageWe’ve been enjoying fresh bread at home for the past few weeks courtesy of my husband – and it all started with a notonthehighstreet.com Dad Academy session. Here’s more.

Arts and crafts, DIY, cooking… I’ll chance my arm at most things to varying degrees of success. I have never been blessed, as my mum often tells me, with naturally practical genes but I like to think what I lack in God-given ability I make up through endeavour and determination.

So when I was asked by my wife to attend a session of Dad Academy from notonthehighstreet.com, my naturally competitive streak kicked in and I started to psyche myself up for what I imagined would be the urban equivalent of zip wiring through mangrove swamps with fellow chest beating males.

Not so.

I did, however, have the opportunity one reasonably balmy August evening to roll up my man sleeves and get mixing, kneading and baking through Ma Baker’s bread making course.

So off I went telling myself I’d be competing in The Great British Bake Off – albeit at Sunday League football level. A glass of bubbly down the hatch, I and fellow dads were welcomed to our pristine work surfaces with all our ingredients laid out to make our first bread – a lovely sourdough.

Nervous laughter aside at the thought of losing face in front of each other, Liz from Ma Baker cut through all our barely concealed bravado and took us back to the classroom with a fun and easy to follow session. Balls of dough at the ready we set about kneading our dough with the delicacy of heavyweight boxers.

I was jokingly reprimanded for some over-vociferous dough banging on the table but I knew, you see, that it’d give my mix the competitive advantage it would need. Off to the oven they went and off to the bar we went for discussion about the merits of dough scrapers and the quickest ways to remove congealed flour from our hands.

Back we came for round 2 and growing in confidence we set about delivering our second batch, this time a traditional white farmhouse loaf – the process once again expertly curated by Ma Baker herself.

It was a lovely evening and very good fun. Ma Baker was also very open to even the most basic of questions about baking and we were all happy another string had been added to our bows.

Whether my home creations have the same sparkle as those made on the day I’ll leave others to judge. I, on the other hand, look forward to the next instalment of Dad Academy: no doubt zip wiring through those swamps.

How to make a simple Thomas the Tank Engine birthday cake (or even Gordon!)

Thomas the Tank Engine cakeAfter tackling Peppa last year, I was hoping for something a bit simpler this time round. Especially as I also have a rather large belly to work around this year. But being almost three, Scrip ensured she got her request in early and her cake had to be Thomas The Tank Engine-themed but not only that, it had to feature Gordon. Tough brief.

After much research (there’s some brilliant inspiration on Pinterest and YouTube – here’s my three year old party board) I quickly ruled out carving out a 3D train or even a face-on engine in favour of a simpler cake shape and making Gordon’s face out of fondant.

Although the internet is bursting at the seams with Thomas creations, Gordon is a lot harder to find. So this was mainly about adapting tips for Thomas and making sure I captured the angular face of Gordon rather than the (probably simpler) rounded one of the main character.

Gordon the tank engineIt’s also worth saying that there are lots of different versions of all of the characters – depending which book, cartoon or image you find. I went for this Gordon off the internet which is like the current TV CGI and I thought would be the easiest to copy.

I started off with the cake. As for last year, I used this sponge recipe from all recipes – it really does seem to be foolproof. The cake was 20cm x 20cm square and I used this adjustable tin from John Lewis which I had from last year. I made sure I followed the recipe to a letter and also remembered to follow my cake making rules from last year.

Tala cake toolsWhen the cake was in the oven, I tackled the most difficult bit: Gordon’s fondant face. As the detail was intricate, I bought some fondant tools and they really helped. Mine were Tala and I got them from John Lewis, but you can also buy them online. I bought this fondant rolling pin and these modelling tools (double sided).

My fondant was Waitrose’ own brand. I think Waitrose have the best supermarket selection of home baking ingredients, but I also got some ready-coloured fondant for the detail (like his black funnel) and I’d really recommend that to get the colour right. Mine was Dr Oetker Regal Ice Ready to Roll (Coloured).

I found a great tutorial online which helped with a few tips. Key with fondant is to try not to let it dry out too much, so I had sealable plastic bags on hand to pop in any icing I’d opened but wasn’t using straight away. I also had a little bowl of water to help smooth over cracks; be aware that too much of this makes for a shiny surface, so only use when you really have to.

marbelled fondant icingI started by deciding how big Gordon’s face was going to be on the cake. Mine was about 12cm to make sure I could fit the funnel and a few extras like her age and the candles around the outside. Then I got a biggish blob of icing and added a few drops of black to it to make the silver/grey colour of Gordon’s face and moulded and kneaded it until it was even all over (it stays marbelled for quite a while so be patient). Best to start with a little bit of colour and add more as necessary. When you’re happy with the colour roll it out with the fondant rolling pin to a few cm thickness and then make your circle shape. I used a clean round container of around the right size that I pushed down on the icing and cut around. Keep the bits around the edges as you’ll be using these for the nose and cheeks.

For the cheeks, turn the head over, roll two smallish balls (about the size of marbles) and put them on the back in the middle of the head. Push them in gently, then when you turn it over you can easily mould crease-free cheeks over them. Next was the nose. Thomas’ nose is round but Gordon’s is sharper. It was roughly the length of the cheeks. I stuck it on and smoothed it down with one of the rounder tools, adding a bit of water at the end to really get a nice surface.

Gordon fondant faceI used the tool with the sharp end to carve out the mouth and cleft above it, adding a bit of extra grey icing around the bottom lip to make it stand out. This only needs to be a very thin bit. Then I put another very thin bit of white icing in to make the teeth. I flattened it with one of the tools.

For the eyes I used my thumbs and the tools to make two indents above the cheeks, then added small pieces of white in half moon shapes. I tried to mould these before putting them on as I didn’t want to press them too much once in place. The pupils were tiny pieces of black fondant made into very small circles. I put them in place and then cut out triangles at each side to create his ‘twinkles’. This was fiddly and it was hard to make sure they both matched – but he looked a bit cross-eyed if they didn’t!

Eyebrows were much easier: black fondant shaped into two similar eyebrow shapes and laid over the eyes. Try and get the angle roughly right and make sure they’re around the same length as the eyes.

I then moved the face onto a plate using a palette knife (make sure you loosen it all the way around underneath before) and added a thinnish roll of black fondant to make the outline all around his face, and a small tube with a roll of icing on top to make the funnel. And Gordon was done!

Cake and icingWhen the cake was out I let it fully cool before doing my icing crumb layer (as I did for Peppa). The icing was buttercream plus a lot of blue food colouring. I couldn’t get the royal blue colour of Gordon with supermarket colours – probably only with professional colouring – but I got a nice blue shade which hopefully still looked edible and gave everyone the idea! I used a couple of tubes of Dr Oetker Sky Blue plus extra tubes from the Cooperative.

Once my crumb coating was fully cooled in the fridge, I put on the final layer using palette knives to smooth with a bit of hot water where necessary. As not much of the icing was on show it didn’t need to be perfect. Once that was set, it was time for Gordon’s face to go on. I transferred it very carefully using the palette knife and put it in the centre. I made a few puffs of smoke using white fondant formed into simple cloud shapes to look like they were coming out of the funnel and then used some star cookie cutters to make some star shapes which I piped number 3s onto with writing icing (careful as it can bleed a bit – so try and keep it as thin as possible).

The finishing touch was some wafer stars from Lakeland to go around the outside – two on each side. And don’t forget to leave an empty corner for the candles!

I hope that was relatively easy to follow. It was certainly appreciated by my little three year old – and that made all the preparation and fondant smoothing worthwhile!

Brilliant blog posts on HonestMum.com

Toy-tidy: how to make a simple homemade drawstring bag

Homemade drawstring bagMine aren’t half as beautiful as Helen’s at Sew Coastal but they’re a quick way to help you tidy away toys – especially the little fiddly ones (where’s that yellow plastic hat from? Is that a rogue bath toy or one of Peppa’s endless fairground ride accessories?)

Ahead of me properly getting to grips with my sewing machine at my Sew Pretty course in a few weeks (I can’t wait), here’s how to make some drawstring bags using simple stitching and materials you should already have.

What you will need:
A canvas bag: the kind you’ve probably been given for free at some stage
A length of ribbon: shiny works best but any will do Continue reading

Simple Banana Bread: delicious and uses up bananas

Banana Bread SlicesFrom being an always-in-the-lunch-box baby staple, Scrip’s now a bit take it or leave it about bananas. She does like them mashed with milk and a bit of brown sugar (thanks to my mum for reminding me how much I used to like them like this!) And she’ll occasionally eat a whole one as long as she can try and peel it herself. But she’d generally rather have an apple or a pear. Which means that we sometimes have one or two  browning bananas left in the fruit bowl. Continue reading

Building a sandpit – in three easy steps

IMG_8365We promised Scrip a sandpit after the gardeners moved out and the mess and the dust sheets were all gone (although to be honest, she seemed pretty excited by all of that, not to mention the frequent tea rounds). Towards the end of the work she started asking when they’d be finished building her sandpit, which we gently tried to Continue reading

Welsh cakes: a family recipe

welsh cakesA Rayburn is ideal for making these, but in my West London kitchen a flat griddle pan on top of my gas oven works almost as well. Even so, I’m still perfecting my technique whereas my Welsh dad, who’s been eating and then making them for as long as he remembers, makes a delicious batch each time.

Scrip has just joined in with him to cut out a few and they’re currently cooling in time for tea later on. Here’s a tried and tested recipe from BBC Good Food. Welsh cakes are simple and great for freezing or keeping in a tin for up to a week. We have them cooled on their own but they’re also nice warm or with butter and jam. Mwynhau (sorry to Nan if that’s wrong).

Ingredients

  • 225g plain flour
  • 85g caster sugar
  • ½ tsp mixed spice
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 50g butter, cut into small pieces
  • 50g lard, cut into small pieces (or Trex, which is what I use) plus extra for frying
  • 50g currants
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • splash milk

Continue reading

Sew Coastal – a brilliant business homemade in Cornwall

Sew Costal projectA few days in Cornwall and a healthy dose of sunshine and I’m already plotting our move down here. Not sure my husband feels quite the same (much as he loves it here it’s pretty far away from his Kent homeland, I have to admit) but Scrip certainly Continue reading

A 5 minute recipe: chocolate oaty slices

chocolate oaty slicesHere’s a great little recipe from my good friend Helen. She brought this out at an impromptu picnic we had in Cornwall and our children (and all the adults) loved it.

The great thing is it can be made from store cupboard ingredients and it really does take five minutes. Enjoy:

Ingredients

100 g sugar
100 g butter
1 tbsp syrup
4 tbsp cocoa powder
175g – 200g oats

Method

Melt the first four ingredients (everything but the oats) in a pan on a medium heat. Once all melted, turn off the heat and stir in the oats until all are coated. Press down into a baking tin and smooth over (you won’t need the whole tin so start from one side). Leave to cool and once hard, cut into pieces and store or freeze.

Presenting Peppa: how to make a simple Peppa Pig cake

Peppa Pig CakeScrip’s second birthday came and went and her biggest smile wasn’t reserved for her new toys, games with her little friends or big party tea – it was for her Peppa Pig cake. Which more than justified the hours I’ve spent researching the perfect recipe (moist but firm enough to shape), the best pink gel colouring (Dr. Oetker) and cartoon icing techniques. It really Continue reading