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Frozen fruit pops

Frozen fruit pops

Summer has come and gone in the UK. It wasn’t a bad one at all this year, in fact I got a tan during a British summer for the first time! However I’d be lying if I said I was anything but ecstatic that we’re finally away on holiday enjoying a very hot sun on a wonderful beach.

During our summer at home, Nicholas and I got into a regular habit of going to a park a little way from home that’s much bigger than our neighbourhood ones. For warm days its paddling pool was perfect. Our ritual was paddling pool followed by a lie in the sun, moving to the large sand pit followed by all the other playground attractions. Then we’d go find the ice cream man and have a run round the park before coming home.

Of course a British summer wouldn’t be a British summer without some rain, and not just a summer shower but days of torrential rain! (I wrote my cheeky views of the summer in the UK here.)  When we couldn’t go outside and enjoy an ice lolly, we’d improvise a picnic inside and eat frozen fruit pops to make the day sunnier.

There really is nothing simpler than frozen fruit pops. Well you could just throw some fruit pieces into the freezer, but then you’d be missing the fun aspect of the stick. Why does putting food on a stick much it so much better?!?

You need plastic cake pop sticks or wooden ice lolly sticks. Don’t use wooden skewers as these can be dangerous for little ones and they’re not as easy to hold on to.

Next chop up some fruit into bite-sized pieces. We used strawberries and grapes. You can also use banana, watermelon (cut in chunks or balls), raspberries, blueberries and mango.

Thread your fruit onto the sticks, put on a freezer-proof plate or tray and put into the freezer for at least 2 hours. Once they’re frozen you can keep them all together in a freezer bag.

A healthy fun treat for summer days, or when you’re wishing for the return of summer days.

What were your favourite things to do together this summer?

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Lemon Myrtle Swiss Roll

The Great British Bake Off is back on which makes me very happy, and this year I wanted to do something I didn’t get round to last year – join in the Great Bloggers’ Bake Off run by Jenny at Mummy Mishaps.

The idea is to bake something inspired by the challenges on that week’s show, whether copying a recipe done or coming up with something yourself. This week was Swiss rolls, Mary Berry’s cherry cake and miniature British classics.

As soon as I saw some of the contestants making coloured patterned Swiss rolls, I knew that’s what I wanted to try!

I’ve seen some of my favourite foodie bloggers making the cutest Swiss rolls using silicon templates like these:
cute Swiss roll silicon sheetsAnd what Minion fan wouldn’t love to eat these?!?
minnion-cake-rolls-cupcakepedia

Absolutely amazing, but I didn’t want to be overly ambitious as each separate colour you use adds to the preparation time (and my piping skills leave a lot to be desired!). You do the pattern first, one colour at at time, either freezing the batter, or cooking it for a very short time, to set it in place and stop it bleeding into the rest of the roll. You then pour the rest of the batter over the top and cook the whole sponge.

Patterned Swiss roll decided, but what about the flavour? I wanted to do something a bit different. When I saw my lovely blogger friend Blue’s creation inspired by her childhood memory of an Aussie honey roll with the twist of lavender, I remembered the Australian herbs and spices my wonderful hubby brought back from a work trip to Melbourne. Powdered lemon myrtle was the first one I pulled out and my decision was made.

You can learn more about lemon myrtle here and I’ve found it to buy in the UK here. It has the most amazingly strong lemon aroma and you really get the sense of it being a wild bush plant when you taste it in something. However, you can substitute it with lemongrass powder or lemon verbena for a similar more earthy lemon flavour.

I used my husband’s Swiss roll recipe converting his very easy to remember ‘3-3-3’ formula (3 dessert spoons of plain flour, 3 dessert spoons of sugar and 3 eggs) to grams. His Swiss rolls always turn out wonderfully light using just the whisked egg whites to make it fluffy; unfortunately mine didn’t. Whisking the egg whites a bit to make the batter for the pattern, waiting for that to freeze and then whisking the whites again to fold into the main batter didn’t work that well (and hubby wasn’t impressed!). Next time I do a patterned Swiss roll I’ll use self-raising flour to produce a more stable batter.

Great British Bake Off

LEMON MYRTLE SWISS ROLL

Prep time: 30 mins plus 15 mins freezer time to set your pattern
Cook time: 8-10 mins
Makes one roll

3 eggs
50g caster sugar
50g plain flour
1 tsp ground lemon myrtle
small amount of green food colouring gel

For the cream filling:
200ml double (or whipping) cream
1 tsp ground lemon myrtle
2 tsp caster sugar

Draw your leaf pattern on a piece of paper slightly smaller than your baking tray. Place it on your tray and cover with a piece of baking paper. (If the baking paper doesn’t stay flat, dab a little butter on the tray around your paper pattern and use it to stick the baking paper in place.)

Separate the eggs putting the yolks into a medium-sized mixing bowl and the whites into a bowl big enough to beat them (a metal one is supposedly better for beating egg whites).

Add the 50g of caster sugar to the egg yolks and beat by hand with a whisk until it’s turned a paler colour. Keep beating and add the flour a spoonful at a time and then the lemon myrtle.

Put 2 tablespoons of the egg and flour mix in a small bowl and add a very small amount of food colouring gel to get your required shade.

Using an electric beater, whisk the eggs whites until soft peaks have just started to form.

Add 2 tablespoons of the whisked egg whites to the sponge batter you put in the smaller bowl and mix together (you don’t need to worry about the whites collapsing). Keep adding egg white until you have a fairly runny mixture similar to the consistency of single cream.

Put in a small clean resealable bag and squeeze the mixture to a bottom corner. Snip the corner off (it needs to be very small!) and pipe your design onto your prepared tray using your pattern as a guide.
My template and my simpler piped leaves

Put your tray into the freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 175C.

Just before you take your tray out of the freezer, whip your remaining egg whites a little bit more until you just have firm peaks. Add about a third of the egg whites to the remaining sponge batter and thoroughly mix.

Take your tray out of the freezer.

Gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the sponge batter and pour the batter into your tray using a spatula to very gently cover your design without smudging it.

Bake for 8-10 minutes until lightly golden brown.

Keeping the sponge on the baking paper, roll it up tightly while it’s still warm and leave to cool.
lemon myrtle

To make the cream filling, whip the double cream, lemon myrtle and sugar until stiff.

When the sponge has cooled, gently unwrap it and peel off the baking paper.

Trim the sides and spread the cream over the sponge (putting slightly more at the end you’ll start rolling it up and slightly less at the other).

Roll up the sponge as tightly as you can and trim the end just before you finish rolling. Chill in the fridge to firm up for at least an hour.

Great British Bake Off

What pattern would you try on a Swiss roll? Something for a birthday or Christmas perhaps?

To join in the Great Bloggers Bake Off or to see the other baking efforts, visit Mummy Mishaps.

gbbo-badgesmallI’m also linking up with Supergolden Bake’s #CookBlogShare party.

cookblogshare

 

Banana and nutella muffins

Hannah at Mums’ Days has made a fabulous list of recipes to use up browning bananas. Her 10 ways to use up old bananas includes banana milkshakes and smoothies, banana gelato, banana pancakes, banana bread and also my sugar-free flapjacks (which is without a doubt the most popular recipe on my blog).

Yesterday I needed a ‘pick-me-up’ and seeing the bananas in my fruit bowl that looked like they were very close to walking to the bin on their own, I thought of Hannah’s list, especially The Londoner’s Nutella swirl banana muffins. Perfect!

Banana and nutella muffins

Even though I wanted to eat something indulgent I couldn’t help myself from trying to make Rosie’s original recipe slightly healthier. So I reduced the sugar by a third and substituted some of the white self-raising flour with wholemeal. For muffins, the slightly heavier and denser cousins of cupcakes, you can definitely get away with adding some healthier wholemeal flour.

My taste-testers made no comment about the lack of sugar (and hubby ALWAYS comments if something I make isn’t sweet enough in his opinion). The fact that very ripe bananas are super sweet, plus the addition of Nutella makes it very easy to reduce the sugar content significantly without losing the necessary sweetness needed for it still to be a sweet treat.

I do love Nutella, in particular for how little you can add of it to make something seem much more indulgent than it is. I like adding it to porridge as only half a teaspoon makes the porridge taste wonderfully chocolatey and incredibly indulgent.

When I showed the muffins going into the oven yesterday on Instagram, one of my lovely IG friends asked if I’d tried Lindt ball muffins. I’d forgotten seeing them and was very glad I had! But if you need a more indulgent muffin, why not try popping a Lindt ball into the centre rather than the Nutella; I’m sure they would be divine.

BANANA AND NUTELLA MUFFINS

Prep time: 15 mins
Cook time: 20-25 mins
Makes 12 muffins

115g unsalted butter
80g wholemeal self-raising flour
150g white self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1 tsp vanilla extract
4 tbsp Nutella, at room temperature

Gently melt the butter (I prefer to use the microwave) and leave to cool.

Heat the oven to 180C and lightly grease your muffin tins (or line with paper cases).

In a medium-sized mixing bowl, combine the wholemeal and white flours, the sugar and salt.

In a jug (or smaller mixing bowl), whisk together the melted butter, beaten eggs, mashed bananas and vanilla extract.

Pour the wet mixture into the dry ingredients and mix until just combined (mixing too much can make your muffins dense and chewy).

Divide the mixture evenly between the muffin tin holes (they’ll be about half to three-quarters full depending on the size of your tin). Add a small dollop of Nutella on top of each muffin and use a skewer (or knife) to swirl it through the muffin (not too much or you won’t see any swirls).
banana and Nutella muffins

Bake for 20-25 mins until golden and cooked through when tested with a skewer.

Variations:

  • instead of Nutella, place a piece of chocolate (or Lindt ball!) in the centre of each muffin before baking to make oozing chocolate banana muffins
  • add 1 tsp of ground cinnamon to the mashed banana
  • make banana and Nutella bread/cake by cooking the mixture in a loaf or cake tin

Tip: if your Nutella is still rather hard at room temperature, either place the jar into a sink of hot water or pop the jar (without its lid) in the microwave and zap at a low temperature for intervals of 10 seconds each until it’s slightly runny.

Yogurt Week: Yogurt-filled strawberry apples

Yogurt Week: Yogurt-filled strawberry apples

We’re heading towards the end of Yogurt Week, but you still have until June 9th to enter the Food Stylist competition.

Yogurt Week 2014These yogurt-filled strawberries are a yummy quick snack or dessert that really aren’t any more time-consuming than chopping up strawberries and serving them with yogurt. Really!

I thought it would be fun to turn them into something else, so we have strawberry apples. Not quite in the same league as Heston Blumenthal’s meat fruit, but they’re still fun!

If you don’t want to turn your strawberries into apples, you could grate a little chocolate over the top (or simply plop a chocolate chip on top) or you could crumble a bit of biscuit over the top for a different take on a healthy strawberry cheesecake (you’re with me on the last one, right?!).

However you have them, they’re a yummy little healthy snack to pop into your mouth.

Yogurt WeekWash your strawberries and pat them dry. Slice the tops off, then using a small spoon (or the tip of a sharp knife), scoop out the inside of the strawberry. If you want them to stand up, also slice a small piece off the bottom.

Fill the hollowed out strawberries with yogurt and decorate as you prefer.

To make strawberry apples, cut out leaf shapes from a green apple or pear, and stems from licorice, and position them in the yogurt.

Eats-Amazing-Fun-Food-FridayI’m linking my yogurt-filled strawberries up to Eat’s Amazing Fun Food Friday, a weekly round up of fun and creative food.

Dairy-free strawberry bread

One of the foods that shouts ‘SUMMER!’ to me is strawberries and when I recently bought too many punnets of them at the supermarket (who can resist a ‘buy one get one free’ offer?), I thought I’d use some of them to bake a lovely sweet treat.

strawberry loaf

This recipe is an adaptation of my dairy-free banana bread although I’ve reduced the sugar content a little (you could reduce it even more if your strawberries are wonderfully sweet). Regular readers will know how much I love to decrease the sugar in recipes before my taste testers can tell the difference ;).

Perfect for breakfast, afternoon tea or dessert, enjoy a little taste of summer to make your day better (I guarantee it!).

DAIRY-FREE STRAWBERRY BREAD

Prep time: 10-15 mins
Cook time: 40-45 mins
Makes 1 loaf
Freezable

175g self-raising flour
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
150g golden caster sugar
2 eggs
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Approx. 300g strawberries, hulled and chopped into small pieces
50g walnuts (or pecans), chopped

Preheat the oven to 160C. Line a loaf tin with baking paper.

Take a couple of spoonfuls of flour from your 175g of self-raising flour and put into a small bowl. Lightly stir your strawberries through the small amount of flour (this will stop them sinking to the bottom of your bread while it cooks).

Whisk the sugar, eggs and oil together at a medium speed using a handheld beater or in an electric mixer. Whisk for a few minutes until it’s pale and fluffy.

Sift in the flour and baking powder, and mix until combined using a low speed. Gently stir through the strawberries and walnuts.

Pour into your prepared tin and bake for 40-45 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Variations:

  • Make individual muffins instead of a loaf (easier to freeze if you’re not going to eat all of it)
  • Dust with icing sugar

Refined sugar-free Easter nests

Nicholas’ preschool has had an Easter display up for a couple of weeks now so Nicholas is already getting excited. We had lots of fun making these simple nests together and even more fun eating the eggs that unfortunately wouldn’t fit in the nests!

AAA1

The nests are based on a recipe all Australians know. Honey Joys were pretty much a prerequisite at birthday parties when I was growing up and now they give me a wonderful feeling of nostalgia.

The standard Honey Joy recipe uses butter, sugar and honey, which are melted together and then stirred through cornflakes. I wanted to make a slightly healthier version, and so replaced the sugar and honey with Sweet Freedom (a natural sweetener made from 100% fruit). You could also use agave nectar, or even honey (as you’re still cutting out the original refined sugar). The end result is just as sugary sweet as I remember but with fewer calories. And I believe that means you can eat more of them!

I’ve also successfully made a dairy-free version of these, using a dairy-free spread instead of the butter. They turned out just slightly softer than using butter, but otherwise I was very happy with the result.

Sweet Freedom nests

SUGAR-FREE EASTER NESTS

Prep time: 5 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Makes about 12 nests

45g butter or dairy-free spread
2 tbsp Sweet Freedom (or agave nectar or honey)
2 cups cornflakes
Some small chocolate eggs

Preheat oven to 150C and line a cupcake tray with paper cases.

In a small saucepan, melt the butter and Sweet Freedom over a low heat until the butter is frothing a little (if using a dairy-free spread, just melt as it won’t froth).

While you’re waiting, put the cornflakes into a medium-sized bowl.

Pour the melted sweetened butter over the cornflakes and quickly mix to combine.

Spoon the cornflake mixture into the cupcake cases, making nest shapes by leaving a hollow in the centre of each.

Bake for 10 minutes.

Cool a little and while the nests are still sticky, push in some small chocolate eggs.

Cool completely.

The ultimate (blue) chocolate cake

Nicholas is now a big three years old (although it depends on what he does or doesn’t want to do whether it’s “mummy, I’m big!” or “mummy, I’m little!”). And I promised myself it wouldn’t take me a year to blog about it (like his second birthday).

When I asked him what kind of cake he wanted on his birthday he very decisively requested a blue chocolate cake. I have to admit cheering loudly to myself. Even though I’m a big chocolate lover, hubby isn’t and has a tendency to sulk if I make anything chocolatey for other people.

We even had an argument one year when I requested a chocolate cake for my birthday but he wanted to make me his pineapple upside down cake (which I do love) because surely I’d be happier if everyone could enjoy the cake (um… I think I’m allowed to be a little selfish one day a year!). Anyway he did come through in the end and made me the yummiest chocolate brownies.

Back to the blue chocolate cake, this was the perfect excuse to make a lovely decadent cake I’ve had saved in my favourites for a while, Angela Nilson’s Ultimate Chocolate Cake. And having made it twice now, this is definitely my ‘go to’ chocolate cake from now on! It’s a deliciously decadent fudgy chocolate cake that stays moist for several days, so perfect to make a day or two ahead. Its richness also means you can serve up smaller slices making it feed more people.

Nicholas and his requested blue chocolate cake
I always read any comments people make when looking at recipes online. In the comments left by people who’d made Angela’s cake there were two very helpful suggestions made by different people: make the ganache that gets poured over the finished cake first so it can cool and thicken in the fridge; the amount of sugar in the cake can be reduced a lot.

It is amazing how much you can often reduce the quantity of sugar in recipes without really noticing a difference. Since I started experimenting with cooking more healthily after having Nicholas, I’ve successfully reduced the sugar for most of my favourite sweet recipes sometimes even reducing it by as much as 25%. Next time you do some baking, why not try taking out some of the sugar and see if you notice the difference.

The original cake recipe has 400g in total of sugar (200g each of light muscovada and golden caster sugars). As suggested, I used 250g in total, a very large reduction, and it was still a very sweet cake! I also omitted the 2 tablespoons of golden caster sugar in the ganache as I thought it was unnecessary and again it was definitely sweet enough. So a slightly healthier version of the original recipe ;).

The original recipe uses dark chocolate in the ganache. I used white chocolate to be able to give Nicholas his requested blue cake and it was a nice pop of colour having some blue sandwiching the cake together.

Being a bit lazy, I cooked my cakes in two separate tins to avoid having to cut through the middle later when decorating it. This also reduces the cooking time (another bonus!).

The ganache recipe makes a lot. I used it to sandwich together the two cakes and poured it over the top, but still had a small bowlful left. You could use the leftovers to ice cupcakes, or warm it a little and pour over ice cream or dollop over frozen berries.

Please try to ignore the big crack on the top!

THE ULTIMATE (BLUE) CHOCOLATE CAKE

Prep time: 30-40 mins
Cook time: 45-55 mins (mixture divided into 2 tins); 1hr 20 – 1 hr 30 mins (mixture cooked in 1 tin)

For the ganache:
200g good quality white chocolate, chopped or broken into fairly small pieces
284ml carton double cream (pouring type)
A few drops of food colouring

For the cake:
200g good quality dark chocolate, about 60% cocoa solids, chopped or broken into fairly small pieces
200g butter, cut into cubes
1 tbsp instant coffee granules
85g self-raising flour
85g plain flour
1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda
125g light muscovado sugar
125g golden caster sugar
25g cocoa powder
3 medium eggs, lightly beaten
75ml (5 tbsp) buttermilk

To make the ganache, pour the double cream into a small saucepan and heat gently over a low heat until it’s just about to boil. Meanwhile put the pieces of white chocolate into a bowl.

Once the cream is almost boiling, take it off the heat and pour it over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate has melted and the mixture is smooth. Add a few drops of food colouring and stir through.

Put the ganache in the fridge to cool and thicken while you make the cake.

To make the cake, butter two 20cm round cake tins (if using just one tin it needs to be at least 8cm deep) and line the base with baking paper.

Preheat the oven to fan 140C/conventional 160C/ gas 3.

Put the pieces of dark chocolate and butter into a medium, heavy-based saucepan. Mix the instant coffee into 125ml cold water and add it to the saucepan. Gently melt over a low heat, stirring regularly so the mixture doesn’t burn on the bottom. (Or melt in the microwave on medium for about 5 minutes, stirring half way through.)

While the chocolate is melting, sift the self-raising and plain flours, bicarbonate of soda and cocoa powder into a big bowl. Add the light muscovado sugar and golden caster sugar and stir getting rid of any lumps.

Once the chocolate mixture has melted, pour it into the dry ingredients and add the beaten eggs and buttermilk. Mix until everything is thoroughly combined and you have a smooth, quite runny consistency. Pour into your prepared tin/s and bake until a skewer comes out clean and the top feels firm (don’t worry if it cracks a bit): 45-55 mins if dividing it between two tins or 1hr 20-1hr 30 mins if baking it as one cake.

Leave to cool in the tin (don’t worry if it dips slightly), then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.

If you’ve made one cake, cut it horizontally in half once cold. If you’ve made two, you might need to level the top of the one which will be your bottom piece (if that is the case, you must then eat the bits you cut off to ensure the cake is ok ;)).

Sandwich the pieces together with some of the ganache, then pour more ganache over the cake letting it fall down the sides and smoothing to cover with a palette knife. Decorate as desired.

third birthday 'selfie'

Tip: You’ll have leftover buttermilk after making this cake; use the rest to make wonderfully light pancakes (just do an online search for ‘buttermilk pancakes’).