Fun in the snow!

It’s not often that we all get time to go out together, but after a busy few weeks we’ve been out to have fun in the snow this afternoon! We were all wrapped up warm and walked to my mother in laws which is about one and a half miles away. We took the sledge and went via the park, had a cup of tea and chocolate biscuits and then made our way home. We were tired and wet but had lots of fun and a rosey glow to our cheeks! A great afternoon was had by all, but after pulling my 11 year old along, I think my arms might ache a bit tomorrow!

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20130120-172518.jpg Country Kids from Coombe Mill Family Farm Holidays Cornwall

Lets eat cake!

Although I’m not a professional, i make cakes for family and friends. I cook as part of my job as a teacher, so people just expect me to be good at making food!!!
It took me ages to find a recipe that was suitable for the cakes that I make. Some were too soft and didn’t hold up very well when decorated and others were too dry but provided a great texture for icing. There is two recipes that I use regularly now and I find that both of them work well. One provides a slighly firmer cake than the other, so I swap between the two depending on the design that I am creating.

This first recipe is a quick Madeira cake that is made using the all-in-one method. I make this in the food processor to get a consistant mixture. It can be made using the creaming method if you have the time, but if you are doing so leave out the baking powder.

This recipe will make two cakes in 18cm round sandwich tins. I use one bigger single tin, and adjust the quantities accordingly.

175g butter (sotened)

175g caster sugar

3 large eggs (I only use Free Range)

1 tsp baking powder

3 tbsp milk

1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Pre-heat the oven to 180c (I use 170c for a fan oven) or Gas 4

Put all ingredients into the food processor or a bowl and mix until combined.

Spoon mixture between the two tins, and level out.

Bake for 25-35 minutes or until firm to touch. If the top is getting too brown, turn the oven down a little.

Leave to cool for 5-10 mins then turn onto a wire rack and allow to cool.

(If you are in a hurry to decorate it, put the cake in the fridge.

I find it best if I make the cake the day before, as it allows the cake to firm up a little before decorating.

You can also freeze the cake and then decorate once removed from the freezer. This makes it easier to work with when decorating.

Filling:

250g unslated butter

500g icing sugar

1 jar quality jam (I use homemade)

With a large knife or a cake wire, cut the cake in half. Spread jam over one half, making sure to go close to the edges.

Cream butter and icing sugar together until smooth, adding a little milk i required. I also like to add 1/2 tsp vanilla extract.

On the other side of the cake, spread the buttercream.

Sandwich the two halfs together, making sure that you line the cakes up so that it goes back together as one whole cake. This prevents ridges when you are decorating it!

With the remaining buttercream, spread a thin layer all over the top and sides of the cake. This is the easiest way to hold the fondant icing in place, and also fills any minor imperfections to give a good finish.

Now decorate as you please!

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OSS…. Odd Sock Syndrome

I was sorting out the washing at the weekend when it struck me…..Odd socks! How on earth do we have so many odd socks in our house? It’s got to the point where we have a little Ikea box thingy in a drawer and all the odd socks get sent to coventry! I don’t know where they are come from or on the flip side, where they all go? The washing washing basket is empty, there is not an ounce of washing in the house, and still I have a pile of odd socks that would keep a centipede happy!
So where do these odd socks go? Well, I have checked under beds (my DD throws them there….actually she leaves them all over the place *note to self, teach daughter to deposit socks safely in washing basket*), in socks drawers- they may have escaped and hidden themselves in the undergrowth, in other drawers….just in case they went AWOL, in the washing machine, in the tumble drier and just about anywhere else you can think of. No joy!
Now occasionally I’m lucky and my search is fruitful….I may find one that has managed to squirrel away and hide itself in the bottom of a duvet cover, or a pair that are similar and been matched together, but there are a lot of socks that disappear into the unknown. Sometimes they may only be a few weeks old, so I know that the socks are definitely getting smarter these days!
Look at them all…..

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And that’s not all of them!
So what I want to know is do any of you suffer from OSS (odd sock syndrome) or am I alone in this? Even better, do you know how to cure it…….or at least help me cope with it? And what strategies can I put in place to help me deal with it, because it is really becoming difficult to manage! I’m fairly sure that I am not the only one out there who suffers at that the hands of the Odd Sock, so if you have had similar experiences, I’d really love to hear about them.

Perfect chocolate brownies…..Really quickly!

For those of you that liked the look of the brownies that I cooked last week, here is the recipe for what I think is the perfect brownie! Now everyone likes there brownie a little differently…..I like mine with a crispy top and a soft, almost gooey middle! If you like a drier brownie, you just cook for a little longer.

Now aside from the recipe, the tin that you use is almost as important as the recipe itself! If your tin is too big, they will turn out thin and dry and if it’s too small, they will end up soggy in the middle and really crispy on top! The tin that I use for this recipe is a reactangulare tin that is 26cm by 20cm. The depth is 4cm, and the mixture will rise right to the top so don’t be tempted to use a shallower one.

So, here are the ingredients that you will need:

280g caster sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

40g cocoa powder (Bourneville or Green and Blacks, not drinking chocolate!)

300g chocolate (i use a mixture of white, plain and milk chocolate)

225g plain flour

125ml sunflower oil

3 medium eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

50ml water

(60g nuts (these are optional…I like walnuts or pecans))

Oven temperature is 180c (I use 170c with my fan oven) or Gas 4 (make sure you preheat!)

Now for the easy bit……. I put all ingredients except for the chocolate, into a food processor and mix for a few mintues until you mixed all of the ingredients together and created a smooth batter. (If you don’t have one , you could use an electric whisk instead or mix by hand with a whisk or wooden spoon).

Pour batter into a bowl.

Roughly cut the chocolate into 1-2cm chunks, and mix in with a spoon.

Grease you tin with a some oil and line with baking parchment, or for a quick and easy liner I use the silicone sheets and have cut one down to fit the tin! It is only the bottom that needs lining, but make sure you grease the sides.

Pour mixture into the tin and gently bang the pan on the work top to even out, or spread with a spoon (probably best beacuse then you can lick it afterwards!!!).

Cook in the oven until firm to touch. ( I cook mine for 25 mins but if you like a firmer and drier brownie then you can leave for upto 35 mins).

Leave to cool in the tin for 10 minutes before turning onto a cooling rack. Cut into squares and dust with icing suger for a perfect finish!

If you have a go at cooking these brownies, it would be great to hear your comments. I added 2 bananas to my last batch and they were really yummy too….why not experiement with the recipe and share you ideas?

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Red Hot Shock!

So we got this packet of sweets! We took them out and inspected them…. They come in four levels, one being the least and four being the most. Now for the challenge…. Starting at level 1, we had to see who could reach the highest level. Simple isn’t it? Surely I can hold out against a 6 and 11 year old……wrong! Have you ever had these? OMG!!! They are pure evil, but addictive in a sadistic kind of way…

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So, I unwrap the level 1 and off we go. Easy, just like a fizzy jelly sweet until whooooaaa what is that in the middle? Gooey stuff with a sharp and bitter taste but it’s bearable. Son (11) is pulling some funny faces and daughter (6) bails and heads for the bin! Okay Mum, let’s do level 2 he says. We unwrap and place the unknown into the mouth cavity… It’s ok, I can take it. My lips might be turning up at the corners and the explosion in the middle causes me to screw my nose up a bit but I’ve done it! Son is struggling, face screwed up and he is frantically looking around for a drinking vessel! He swallows it, then drinks a pint of squash! Go on then Mum, try level 3…. Not wanting to let my expectant children down I open and place the level 3 monster in my mouth. It’s like sucking on a lemon…… The kids are in fits laughing at what I can only assume are the weird and wonderful faces that my face is inadvertently pulling. I’m struggling to keep my composure whilst proving that I can withstand the sweets that are the fruit of Satan!

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You’d of thought that since I had bravely conquered levels 1-3 I would quit whilst ahead ( not sure how but anyway!). I had out sucked my son and achieved something that he didn’t believe that I could do- suffered the shocking sourness of the first three levels!

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BUT…. It just wasn’t enough! I now had to prove to myself that I could do it. I could withstand the super shocking Red Hot Shock level 4. Slowly I removed the sweet from the wrapper… I licked it (*sucks in breath*) the kids are shouting words of encouragement – (you’ll never do a level 4 Mum, I don’t know anyone who has). Well, enough said. In it went and it came out again just as quickly! I wouldn’t be beaten, so in it went again staying there this time! I’m glad I couldn’t see my face because I am sure that it only pulled faces that a contortionist would be proud of! It was pure and utter evilness…. So sharp that it was like sucking on the most sour lemon that you could possibly find. My tongue was tingling, my taste buds were shot to pieces but the kids were thoroughly enjoying the entertainment value of a £1 something packet of sweets. I on the other hand, was desperate for a glass of water but proud of the fact that I had done it, I had defeated the level 4 sweet!

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My mouth was on fire, my cheeks were stuck in the sucked in position that you only get when you suck a slice of lemon but the kids thought that I was the best thing since sliced bread!
So now, I’m laying down the gauntlet to all of you Mums and Dads out there….. Can you handle the Red Hot Shocks? Let me know what level you can withstand! I’d love to see the photos of your faces as you try each level!