Monthly Archives: June 2011

Chocolate, Banana & Fudge Muffins

Dr Oetker have kindly sent me a selection of their baking range. I will be testing most of the products in a few weeks with  my Little Helpers, but I couldn’t resist baking with the fudge chunks and we all know that fudge goes well with banana. Cooking with banana in cakes also helps to impart a lovely moistness to the cake. My Chocolate Banana Bread is one of Hub’s favourite cakes so I decided to alter this recipe.  If you don’t have any super ripe banana, peel and chop the banana then blast in the microwave for 10-20 seconds. This helps to soften and sweeten the banana. As for converting recipes a very rough rule of thumb is that a 2lb loaf recipe will make around 24 fairy cake sized cakes and these smaller cakes will take half the time of the 2lb loaf to cook. Read the rest of this entry

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Blooming Great Tea Party

Marie Curie is a charity close to our hearts as they cared for Hub’s Gran in her final days. This month they are asking people to hold tea parties to fundraise for Marie Curie nurses, who provide free care for people with terminal cancer and illnesses in their own homes. The tea parties are a great opportunity to gather friends and family around, bake sweet treats and drink tea, all in the name of a good cause. The best bit is that they can be as simple (say cuppas with colleagues in the office) or as extravagant (a vintage tea party, a cream tea, a garden party) as people have the time and wish to do. Every £20 pounds raised will pay for an hour of nursing care. Last year, tea parties across the UK raised enough money to fund 30,200 hours of care.

The campaign runs from 12th June to 12th July, with registration closing on the 31st July. To register go here. Alternatively, you can call 08700 340 040 to request a pack.

If you need any ideas as what to bake for your Blooming Great Tea Party how about:

Scones – trust me, a failsafe recipe from Grandma.

Bakewell Tart – my personal favourite.

Butterfly Cakes – retro classics.

Mini Carrot Cakes with Cheesecake Icing – The cheesecake icing works really well with this sweet treat.

Chilli Cheese Scones – a savoury treat.

Blooming Baskets

Hanging baskets don’t have the best reputation. They can sometimes be considered naff with their garish trails of bright flowers that sometimes look like they have been thrown together (don’t get me started on their fake counterparts) but you don’t have to plant your hanging baskets with pansies and fuchsias; All of the baskets in our back garden contain either fruit or vegetables. Planting fruit and vegetables in hanging baskets can be a great way of growing-your-own in limited space.

Tomatoes – This was the the first vegetable we attempted to grow in baskets and the Tombling Tom variety works best. Just be careful of blight which can ruin your whole crop.

Strawberries – We’ve planted many varieties over the years and all have worked well apart from the white alpine strawberries we tried last year. The advantages of growing strawberries in hanging baskets is that they are not as accessible to pests (apart from birds) and because they are hanging the you don’t get the problem of the strawberries going soggy on the ground. To help protect the strawberries from birds cover the plants in netting.

Pea shoots – Last year discovered this gem and I have Alys Fowler to thank. You don’t need fancy peas from the garden centre. Plain and simple Bigga dried peas from the supermarket will work just as well. You simply sprinkle the peas over the soil and cover with a thin layer of soil and keep watered.You are able to grow them in baskets as you are literally harvesting the plants for their leaves rather than the peas. You can however transplant the plants once they have grown too much for the basket and grow in to fully fledged pea plants.

Salad leaves – Perfect as they are literally cut and come again. I prefer to use packets of mixed salad leaves for variety. Growing salad leaves is far easier than buying packets from the shops as in our case we struggle to get through a packet of ready prepped salad before it goes off.

Herbs – Most herbs that don’t grow too tall like mint and thyme work well in hanging baskets.

When growing in hanging baskets make sure the basket is well drained but also don’t get waterlogged. We usually line our basket frames with a husk/moss layer (watch the birds pick this out during the nesting season) then a thin plastic layer with a few holes to allow the water the drain through. Also balance the baskets on a bucket to stop them rolling around while trying to fill them with the compost.

Have you tried growing anything unusual in hanging baskets?

Calzone – bread making for kids

Take kids, flour, water and yeast and for some it’s epitome of hell. For me I love it, well it is my day job. I’m one of the rare breed that will take your children off your hands, let them make a mess in the kitchen and I promise to clear up afterwards. There is no getting around the fact that bread making isn’t the cleanest of cookery, but it is a fantastic way of teaching science, maths and fine motor skills. This is a recipe I’ve been teaching for the last few weeks and it has been a big hit with my pupils. It’s a good introduction to bread making because it doesn’t require the time usually needed to allow the dough to rise and double in size. Of course if you have the time, allow the dough to double in size as it does improve the flavour of the dough, but it works just as well with just a quick 10 min rise while the toppings are being prepared. This basic dough recipe can also be used for regular pizza.

The dough uses a mixture of plain and strong bread flour to make sure the dough doesn’t ping back too much when it’s being rolled out which in turn makes it easier for little hands to use. The kneading method I use with most of my pupils is the stretching method. However the best pupil of the past few weeks was a lad who had broken his arm. With a small amount of tuition he was able to knead dough like a pro using the one hand method I was taught by Aidan Chapman. I also showed the pupils that we can check dough is ready by stretching a small window in the dough. The thinner you get the window before the dough tears, the better the dough.

Making bread dough links well with science. During the class I set up a glass of warm water with sugar and yeast so the pupils could see yeast in action. I did have an interesting time explaining to some pupils that yeast is a tiny living thing, a microorganism, a fungi and not an animal. I think some thought that when we added the water to the yeast it would turn into something like sea monkeys! This recipe also links well with maths. As with most measuring jugs it can be difficult to see where 75ml is so we weighed the water on digital scales to improve accuracy as 1ml water = 1 cm³ water = 1 g. Alternatively we could have counted out 5 tablespoons (15ml) of water.

Of course the filling of the calzone is endless. In class we did simple cheese and tomato and the Ikea BONUS knives did a superb job of cutting the tomatoes with no cut fingers. Remember kids, Miss doesn’t like sliced digits. One pupil suggested a sweet filling of banana and chocolate spread, I may well have to give this a go in the future.

While uploading the photos for this post I realised the small cuts I have put in the calzone to stop them getting too soggy inside makes them look like have navels. Maybe they are animals after all…

Calzone
Makes 2 small calzones

60g plain flour

60g strong white bread flour

2 pinches of table salt

1/4 tsp fast action yeast

75ml warm water

2 dessertspoons passata (sieved uncooked tomatoes)

25g grated mozzarella

1 tomato

sprinkling of mixed herbs

1) Preheat oven to 200°c. In a bowl mix together both flours along with the yeast and salt. Stir in water until you have a dough.

2) Sprinkle a small amount of flour on the clean surface, take the dough out of the bowl and knead until you have a soft, smooth dough. Add a tiny amount of flour if the dough gets too sticky. It can take up to 10 minutes for the dough to transform into a soft dough. Put the dough back in the bowl, cover with clingfilm and leave while you prepare the toppings. Depending on time leave the dough for between 10-120 minutes.

3) On a chopping board cut the tomato into small pieces.

4) Cover your baking sheet with a piece of baking parchment. This is not essential but does make sure that none of the calzone sticks. Alternatively sprinkle the tray with a small amount of polenta or semolina.

5) Tear the dough in to two equal balls then roll out until they are the size of a side plate. Place the dough on the lined baking tray. Top with the passata then sprinkle with the cheese, tomato and herbs. Fold the dough in half so it makes a pasty-like shape then crimp the edges. Cut a small hole on the top of the calzone.

6) Bake for 10-15 min or until calzone is puffed and golden.

Chocolate Bran Flake Slice

I’m working on a workshop at the moment to help parents on low incomes pack nutritional lunchboxes. While doing some research I came across a fantastic resource on School Food Trust. They have three-week lunchbox menus and recipes that comply with the strict SFT nutritional standards for primary aged children. There is three sets of menus: low cost, low preperation and vegetarian. I’ve found the menus inspiring and have even tried some of the ideas for myself. These chocolate bran flake slices are the second piece of baking I’ve tried from the resource. I can also recommend the carrot and apricot cakes that appear in the printout. The standards give the advice that packed lunched should include:

  • at least one portion of fruit or veg everyday
  • meat, fish or other source of non-dairy protein everyday
  • oily fish once every three weeks
  • a starchy food everyday
  • a dairy food everyday
Also no:
  • Snacks such as crisps. Instead nuts, seeds, veg, fruit. Savory crackers or breadsticks served with fruit.
  • Confectionary such as chocolate bars, chocolate-coated biscuits and sweets. Cakes and biscuits are allowed, but encouraged only as part of a balanced meal.
  • Highly processed meat products such as pies, corned meat and sausage rolls. Chipolatas can be included occasionally.

As the recipes featured in the pack are based on the nutritional standards you will notice that in this recipe butter is replaced with 60% fat spread. This is to keep both cost and fat content now. I know many people have a frankly snobbish attitude towards using ingredients like low-fat spread. It’s all well and good having wholesome, ‘real’, organic food but it’s worth bearing in mind that there are families out there where these foods are not always available or affordable. I know I’ve spotted the huge hike in ingredient prices and the price of butter has got to the point where I now only use butter in products where will be tasted. Just because an ingredient is compromised, if it helps a child to have a better diet should it matter? These bran flake slices or a piece of confectionery that helps you ‘work, rest and play’?  Ok, I’ll step off my soap box.

As part of the project I have also been looking at the cost and calories of the different dishes. These chocolatey bites come out at a frugal 8p per serving (as of June ’11) and just 136 kcal. The best way I can describe them taste wise is that they are like slightly dry, crumbly brownies. They taste like they should have a great deal more than 136kcal in them! When I came to take photographs of them this morning there was only 7/16 left in the tin. Hubs has been snaffling them, though it is partially my fault as I told him of the surprising calorie content. It is worth trying this recipe as you may be pleasantly surprised.

Chocolate Bran Flake Slice
Makes 16
From School Food Trust

200g 60% fat spread (most light butter spreads are 60%) of course it will work with butter, but will be higher calories.

125g granulated sugar

160g plain flour

40g cocoa powder

100g bran flakes

1) Preheat oven to 180°c. Cream the spread and sugar together until it is light and fluffy.

2) Stir in the flour and cocoa powder. The mixture can be quite stiff at this point but keep going until it is well mixed.

3) Fold in the bran flakes.

4) Line a 20cm x 20cm baking tin with baking parchment, then press mixture into the tin.

5) Bake for 35 min or until set.

6) Once cool cut into 16 squared. Store in airtight container.

Just note that these can be quite crumbly so eat over a plate or napkin.

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