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If you have no daughters, give them to your sons…..

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….. one ha’penny, two ha’penny, hot cross buns!


The monumental effort that is hot cross buns. Here is a warning, do not start baking these if you have plans to go anywhere in the next 24 hours. I didn’t realise they need three separate proving sessions of an hour each time.

So surprise surprise I adapted the recipe a little bit… in that my buns had the first two proving sessions, then Daddy Bear shaped them into what he thought were ball shapes -I’m not sure how you get to 27 and don’t understand that balls are spherical- and left them for a couple of hours (not the 60 minutes suggested).

Later, I came home and delivered a lesson on the concept of a sphere, re-shaped them and left them to prove over night… they actually turned out really well. Although I’m pretty sure Paul Hollywood would be shaking his head in disgust at my lack of consideration for the ‘science of baking’.

Also whilst we’re at it Mr Hollywood, I didn’t put any chopped apple in. Or mixed peel. Oh and I glazed them with melted marmalade. What a rebel.

Mummy Bear x

The Tortoise still wins

When I came across this blog post by The Greedy Frog I thought all my Christmases had come at once. Freshly baked bread in under and hour, with no kneeding or proving? Sounds too good to be true.


Having never tried Soda Bread before, I wasn’t sure what to expect, although I must say I was a little apprehensive when reading the recipe, because it lacked yeast. And kneeding. And proving. And basically everything I have ever known about baking bread. But I was lured by the promise of a quick bread, and it did not let me down.

Because 45 minutes later I did have a golden brown loaf sitting on my bread board. But here is where the tortoise reclaims his crown from the Hare like Soda bread. There are two problems with this loaf.

1. It needs to be toasted and smeared with butter. Then it is delicious. But it is no use for Daddy Bear’s sandwiches, as the hard crust to soft inside ratio is a little out, and also makes it very tricky to slice.

2. (The main one!) It can’t be plaited.

However, if you too are curious as to what Soda bread tastes like (I’ll give you a clue: It’s not Bicarb of Soda) and don’t have a plaited bread fixation, have a go, because 40 mins from now you will be able to find out for yourself!

Mummy Bear x

A Year in the Bear’s Oven.

A Year in the Bear's Oven.

Our Favourite bakes from 2012!

A Happy, Healthy New Year to All Bear Friends,

Mummy Bear x

Round, round spinning out on me

Well who doesn’t love a bit of classic Sugarbabes?! Ok, I admit, there may be a few several people who don’t, including Daddy Bear, but that doesn’t matter because he’s outside swearing at the car. Or rather as he calls it – servicing it. And this means I have had a whole day in which I can do whatever I like (except change the TV channel. God forbid the Bears house as anything except Bob the Builder on loop).

And what I wanted to do was to bake more spirals! Or, to be more precise, attempt cinnamon buns. I’ve wanted to try these since the Sweet Dough episode of the Great British Bake Off, but have put them off because of the time it takes to bake them. You would have thought that having thought about it for over a month, I would at least have all the ingredients in my cupboard. I didn’t, hence the half egg situation where, because I had too little flour. If you’re planning on following this recipe, I’d suggest doubling everything, and only using strong white flour. Also, you would have thought I’d know what I wanted to fill the buns with. But no, I was there with the knocked back dough waiting to be filled, still dithering between the fig and walnuts and the chai spice. In the end the figs and walnuts won out, but only because their cupboard was closer to where I was standing.


230g strong white flour

20 g plain flour plus extra for dusting

40 g unsalted butter, melted.

150 ml whole milk

Half an egg

3.5 g dried yeast

vegetable oil for greasing

2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 tbsp soft brown sugar

100g dried figs, chopped

30 g walnut halves, chopped

150 g icing sugar

3 tbsp maple syrup

In a small pan, melt half the butter and then pour in the milk and heat until luke warm. Whilst waiting for the milk to warm, weigh out the flour and stir in the yeast. Pour the milk and butter mixture into the bowl with the flour, and stir with a wooden spoon until combined into a dough.

Sprinkle flour onto a clean surface, and then kneed the dough for five minutes until smooth and elastic. You may need to add a little bit more flour to stop it being so sticky. Grease a clean mixing bowl with vegetable oil, put the dough in, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for on hour.

Knock back the dough, remove from the bowl and roll out on a lightly floured surface. Try to achieve a rectangular shape, with the long side about 30 cm, and the short side about 20 cm. Melt the other half of the butter, and brush over the dough using a pastry brush. Sprinkle on the ground cinnamon, soft brown sugar and then the chopped figs.

Press the long edge of the dough closest to you against the board so that it sticks to it, and then begin rolling the dough up from the opposite side, towards your body, remembering to keep pulling it tight as you roll. Once all rolled up, slice the roll into 7 equal pieces. Then arrange in a round cake tin with one roll in the middle and the other six around the outside, and with the cut sides facing up. Cover with a warm damp tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place for a second time, for approximately 30 minutes. The rolls will rise and will touch each other, to form one large wheel which can be torn apart when ready to eat. Pre heat the oven to 190C.

Remove the towel and put the buns in the oven for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, cover the top of the tin with foil to prevent the bun tops from burning, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, leave in the tin and whilst still warm brush the tops with maple syrup. Sprinkle on the finely chopped walnuts, and then leave to cool.

Once cooled remove form the tin  and place on a backing rack. Mix the icing sugar with 1 tbsp of water (or more if required) and the fill a sandwich bag. Snip a small corner off the sandwich bag, and drizzle the icing over the cooled buns. Try not to squeeze the bag too hard – or you’ll end up with one bun drowning under a flood of glace icing (speaking from experience!)

Tear the buns apart when ready to eat, or don’t tell anyone and eat the whole lot. I wouldn’t blame you!

Mummy Bear x

Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.


Baby bear has been having a love/hate relationship with blackberries – or ‘grapes’ as he insists on calling them. He is incredibly excited that he can find food on branches outside, and does not discriminate between any colour of berry at all. He will even try the odd leaf, smile at me and say ‘mmmmmmmmmm’. What he is much less keen on are the thorns, and no matter how many times he gets prickled, the expression is still the same; a sort of ‘Huh?! What the hell just happened to my hand?’ type face. But his enthusiasm combined with the beautiful field beside the Bears house, means we now have a huge glut of blackberries, and have been making blackberry jam a plenty.


Some of the jam was experimented with in Apple bear-y cakes with a blackberry jam filling and a custard buttercream frosting. Honestly, they were like Autumn in a mouthful! And gone so quickly I didn’t even get a chance to grab the camera, which I feel speaks volumes about their deliciousness!

The rest of the jam is in jars in my fridge, and has presented the perfect opportunity for some experimental bread baking. I wanted to make something which had an autumnal feel to it (Silly, I know, as this encompasses the whole genre of bread really!) but what I settled on were Wholemeal rolls with poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, golden linseed,  chopped walnuts, raisins and dried apple –  a type of Autumn muesli breakfast roll. Which as it turns out is perfect for    filling with butter and spreading with blackberry jam!

I used Allinson Premium wholemeal very strong bread flour, and followed the recipe on the back, adding in handfuls of the seeds, nuts and dried fruit once the dough had been mixed. I split the dough into five pieces, rolled each segment into a long sausage, then tied it in a knot and tucked the ends underneath. Leave it to rise for 40 minutes and then brush with an egg wash before popping in the oven et voilà, as soon as they look golden on top and have a hollow knock on the base, they’re ready to be devoured by hungry Bears!


I’ve just seen Nigel Slater make a blackberry sauce to go with roast pork, now there’s an idea for the next basketful of berries. Provided Baby Bear stops eating all the unripe red ones on the bushes first!

Mummy Bear x

Procrastination baking

Last weekend when I was supposed to be researching theories on Functional Socialism, I ended up becoming so absorbed in researching alternative plaiting techniques for bread, (which, in case Daddy Bear is reading, is not too dissimilar from Functional Socialism) I realised I had even missed X Factor. This says a LOT about my current obsession for bread braiding!

The technique I was most taken by was the 4 strand plaited round, which I have seen referred to as a ‘challah’ style. I was desperate to try it out, and had a pack of Parmesan and sundried tomato bread mix in my cupboard. It was fate. And this was the result:


Compared to the 8 strand plaited loaf, I found this quite a simple, logical braid to do, and I love the fact that it is round. However I’m not entirely sure it was suited to the bread mix I used, and it might be worth exploring how it would turn out with a lighter sweeter more traditional Challah loaf. I was going to photograph each stage of the braid, but was so consumed by plaiting that I totally forgot. It’s a good job Baby Bear has a well stocked playdough drawer, because an hour or so later a friend asked how to do it, and I was able to show it step by step in dough. Told you playdough plaiting was the way to go!


If there are any other bread braiding obsessives out there, please, come forward and let me know I’m not on my own! Meanwhile, I really need to get back to that Functional Socialism…..

Mummy Bear x

Food Festival Fun and Frolics

Food Festival Fun and Frolics

The Happy Little Baker blogged about Stratford Food Festival a while ago, and made it sound genuinely worth queuing to go into town, so this year I managed to persuade Daddy Bear to come with me and brave town on a Saturday. Honestly, after living in a tourist trap for the majority of your adult life, you learn to avoid certain places at all costs. But the lure of food does make it very very tempting!

And I wasn’t disappointed – it was gorgeous in the sunshine (if a little bit manic with a pushchair!) and well worth the queues. Any Bear friends who live near, I urge you to go (it’s on both days of the weekend) as there are lots of foodie demonstrations, loads to sample for free – especially if you are a fan of flavoured oils, honey and jam like Mummy Bear is – and local produce to buy in the Farmer’s market section.

The Bears have returned with full tummies, plenty of cupcakes (strictly for market research you see) and some super cheap punnets of local raspberries – for adventures in Jam #2!

Mummy Bear x


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