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Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think? Actually, I don’t know. Is it?

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English Summer Cupcakes, the recipe released in a book designed for Red Nose Day. Which is in March. And it’s snowing outside. Although based on last year, that is pretty much Summer in England for you. 

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Ironic or not Bake #9 of the Comic Relief Bake Off Challenge are delicious. Cupcakes with chopped fresh strawberries in the sponge, filled with strawberry jam, topped with cream cheese frosting and a strawberry slice.

Go buy the book and bake them. Then eat them all in one go. And maybe sing a bit of Alanis. Or not. 

Mummy Bear x

When she got there, the cupboard was bare…

And I mean really bare, not Nigel Slater style bare with ‘leftovers’ of whole mackerel, five lemons and a crown of duck. I mean properly bare – some dried blueberry chunks, a packet of popping candy, and the elderflower flavouring. And no milk. (Because Baby Bear had just tipped all EIGHT pints of the stuff over the carpet. )

What I actually wanted to bake was some choc chip muffins to take to soft play with Big Bear and Baby Bear, but I didn’t have a 200g bar of Dairy Milk I could claim as leftover. (Seriously, the phrase ‘leftover chocolate’ is practically oxymoronic. Take note Mr Slater.) And I didn’t have more than 1 egg. Or any milk. Or Cocoa powder.

It was time to get inventing. Here cometh the age of the Blueberry and Elderflower cookie. (We resisted the popping candy.)

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They’re light and fruity, so you don’t feel too guilty eating them, and Nanny and Grandad Bear passed up no complaints. Although soft play is a very captive audience. And they aren’t quite the chocolate muffin I was hoping for.

Ingredients:

115g butter

200g caster sugar

1 egg

200g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarb of soda

1/4 tsp baking powder

150g dried blueberry chunks

3 drops elderflower flavouring

Pre heat oven to 175C.

Beat butter and sugar with electric mixer until combined. Add egg and beat again. Sift in flour, bicarb of soda, and baking powder, then mix with spoon until combined.

Sprinkle in blueberry chunks and drop in the elderflower flavouring and mix with hand until evenly distributed.

Dived into 16 equal pieces, roll each into a ball and then flatten slightly onto baking tray, leaving 2 inches between each cookie to allow for spreading.

Bake in centre of oven for approximately 12-15 minutes. Remove from oven and leave to cool on tray for 5 minutes before transferring onto wire rack.

Seriously yummy with a cup of tea, and made out of genuine left overs. Nigel Slater eat your heart out.

Mummy Bear x

The Calm before the Storm

Tomorrow the Bears go back to school, and the Bear oven will once again lie dormant as the chaos that is Spring term ensues. We even bought extra lotto tickets last night in the hope of preventing tomorrow from happening, but it seems we picked every number except the six we were supposed to. So in an attempt to hold onto the holidays for as long as possible, we have been baking. And taking photos in daylight hours. Oh the novelty!

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These are Elderflower Bear-y cakes with a hint of Lemon and Almond. I’d been looking for a new flavour to experiment with for a while, and after the epiphany which was baking with rose, lavender and dandelion, it seemed  good chance that the Bears would also like Elderflower.

(Also, Big Bear has assumed that Elderflower is somehow related to the Elder wand in Harry Potter, and therefore declared that they are THE BEST Bear-y cakes ever. I did not shatter his illusion.)

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Ingredients for the cake: (Adapted from The PaperCup Kitchen)

120g Stork

130g Self raising flour

150g Caster sugar

2 Eggs

1/2 tsp Lemon Juice

1 tsp Baking powder

125ml Whole milk

20g Ground Almonds

1/4 tsp Beau Elderflower Flavouring

For the buttercream:

125g unsalted butter at room temperature

300g icing sugar

2-3 drops Beau Elderflower flavouring

Cream the stork and the castor sugar in a large bowl until soft and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time and then the lemon juice and elderflower flavouring and beat until incorporated.

Sift the flour, baking powder and ground almonds into the bowl, and then pour in the milk. Beat gently until combined.

Spoon into 12 cupcake cases, and then bake in a preheated oven at 180C for 20 minutes.

Remove from oven and leave to cool in the muffin tin. In a large bowl, beat the unsalted butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy. Add the Elderflower flavouring and colouring of your choice (we used Sugarflair Grape Violet) and beat again on high speed until thoroughly combined.

We used a Wilton 1M nozzle to pipe the design on the top, and then decorated with flowerpaste leaves sprayed gold and sugar pearls (whilst Baby Bear decided to eat the contents of my sprinkles box!)

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Maybe if we overload with sugar we can just forget about tomorrow for a while?!

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

Rapunzel Bread – An 8 strand plaited loaf

It could be because Simon Cowell is no longer on X-factor, but Paul Hollywood seems to be becoming eminently more attractive with each passing series of The Great British Bake Off, regardless of how intimidating he tries to be. I also like to blame my fear of bread baking on his his pedantic critiques of the contestants noble bread baking efforts. Nevertheless this did nothing to hinder my immediate desire to attempt the technical challenge of this series’ bread episode – the 8 strand plaited loaf. This could have been because I’m a glutton for punishment and like to bite off more than I can chew, or because I was actually Rapunzel in a previous life.

I’ve been longing to attempt it for the last 2 weeks, but have been side tracked by a vast amount Super Mario Bros party food. So in the mean time I have had to placate myself with practising the plaiting technique using Baby Bear’s playdough. If you have also been seduced by the beautiful loaf and want to try it yourself, I would recommend doing this, because it gives you a much better feel for it than practising with string or ribbon.

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The recipe I followed when I actually got around to attempting the loaf was the one found in the Great British Bake off book which accompanies Series 3, but at the moment it is also available on the BBC website.

Ingredients:

500gstrong white bread flour

2 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast

10g salt

20ml olive oil

340ml luke warm water

extra flour for dusting

extra oil for greasing bowl

1 free-range egg, beaten lightly with a pinch of salt

Place the flour in a large bowl. Add the yeast on one side of the bowl and add the salt on the other side. Salt should not be placed on top of the yeast, as it can kill it and make in in-active. Add the oil and then stir with a wooden spoon until evenly mixed.

Measure out 340ml water and add three-quarters to the flour mixture, and mix together by hand, then add the rest of the liquid. At this point my mixture resembled very sticky gloop, but I continued to mix the ingredients together by squeezing the gloop between my hands in the vain hope that all was not lost!

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead by hand until the dough looks silky and stretchy. This will take approximately 10 minutes. But my dough was still a big lump of sticky gloop! So I shook a little more of the strong white flour into the bowl and mixed again with my hands. It was still very sticky, but a little less so than before! I kneeded the dough by stretching it between my hands and squeezing it between my fingers for 5 minutes, buy which point it had moved closer to a dough like consistency than a gloop splodge. I used more olive oil spread over a board and rubbed over my hands to stop the dough sticking, and then kneeded for a further 5 minutes in the more traditional sense.

Oil a medium sized mixing bowl and place the dough into the bowl. Cover with cling film and set aside to rise, for about an hour, or until the dough doubles in size. This actually happened. I was so very surprised that I hadn’t managed to murder the bread before it even made it to the oven that I did a little dance. When risen, turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, to knock the dough back. Shape the dough into a ball.

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Divide the dough into eight equal pieces then roll out each piece into a strand about 40cm long. I had to add a little more flour on the surface to be able to roll them, and found it was more a of a roll/stretch movement combined. Also, more was nowhere near 40cm, probably more 30cm but it was late and I couldn’t find the ruler to measure them. Lay the strands out on the lightly floured surface like an octopus, fanned out from a central point at the top. Stick all the ends at the central point to the table with your thumb. It needs a good firm thumb print, otherwise they tend to come apart mid plait. Not good.

Number the strands of dough from 1-8 from left to right. Every time you move any strand it will take the new number of its position in the row.

Step 1: place 8 under 7 and over 1

Step 2: place 8 over 5

Step 3: place 2 under 3 and over 8

Step 4: place 1 over 4

Step 5: place 7 under 6 and over 1

Repeats step 2-5, until all the dough is braided.

Tuck both ends of the loaf underneath to give a tidy finish. If your strands have a light coating of flour on them, it will stop them sticking to the wrong strands and produce a cleaner plait. I learn the hard way! Keep going until the very very end of your strands, as it produces a much neater finish to the end of the loaf. 

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Place the plaited dough onto a floured baking tray, and leave to prove at room temperature for another hour, until risen again. I was a little confused as to whether I should cover it in cling film again at this stage as the recipe said nothing, but in the end I just left it open on the side in the kitchen and it rose well.

During the last 15 minutes of the rising process, preheat the oven to 200C. Brush the loaf with the beaten egg wash and bake in the oven for 20-25mins. If baking this again, I would leave the salt from the egg wash because I found the loaf slightly too salty for my taste buds, but each to their own. The loaf is baked when it is golden in colour and produces a hollow knocking sound when tapped on the bottom. Leave to cool on a wired rack. I ate some straight away, who can resist warm bread?!

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It turns out Big Bear won’t eat this. Why? Well apparently the plait means it’s girly bread. Now, if only I could work out how to plait cupcakes!

Mummy Bear x

Soggy Bottoms and an Eton Mess

I was concerned about the Olympic shaped void in my evenings after the closing ceremony this Sunday. But fear not it seems, as The Great British Bake Off has returned to fill my evenings with burnt crusts and soggy bottoms. To say I was excited was a minor understatement! To celebrate this fact, and to have something to stop me from licking the TV screen and drooling on the sofas whilst watching the programme, I decided I would have to bake something. Something new, for a new series, but something with a little bit of Britishness in. Is Britishness even a word?!

Anyway, a while ago someone had shared a photo with me of some cookie cups. Before this, I had no idea they existed. My life is definitely more complete now. I loved the idea of them, but wanted to make them when I knew exactly what I wanted to fill them with (and not being a huge fan a chocolate, ruled out a lot of the ideas!) And then suddenly I was inspired – what could be a better British flavour than Eton Mess Cookie Cups! For those of you who are Cookie Cup virgins, these are what my empty cups look like. See, now you understand my filling dilemma – the possibilities are endless!

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Eton Mess Cookie Cups

115g salted butter at room temperature

200g caster sugar

1 large egg

200g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp baking soda

60g packet of Strawberry fruit chunks

120g good quality white chocolate (because the cheaper brands just burn) chopped into chunks

300ml double cream

1 pack of fresh raspberries

Mini meringues (you could make these, but I already had a tub, so was lazy!)

Cream the butter and the sugar in a large mixing bowl. I don’t bother to get my electric mixer out for this part of the recipe because it only takes a minute to mix the whole dough together, even with my weakling arms. Add the egg into the mixture and beat again.

Sift the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda into the mixture, and then combine with a wooden spoon. to Get the last bits to combine fully, just use your hands – it’s much easier! Pop all the fruit chunks and the white chocolate chunks into the dough and kneed with your hands until they are evenly mixed throughout the cookie dough.

Take a chunk of dough, approximately the size of a golf ball, and pop it into a one of the holes in a muffin tray. Use your hands to roughly squash it down just so it fills the bottom. Repeat for the rest of the dough, which should fill about 16 muffin holes.

Bake in the (fan) oven at 170C for approximately 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and use the bottom of a spherical measuring spoon (I used the Tala tablespoon) to press a dip into each of the still warm cookies. Leave to cool completely before removing from the muffin tins. The best way to remove the cookie cups is to press down on them gently and twist, which will free the base, and then you will be able to lift them out without breaking.

Whip the double cream until it forms stiff peaks (Yes, I did use the electric whisk for this, as otherwise I would be unable to move my arms for at least a week afterwards!) and then fill a piping bag with it. I didn’t have any piping bags left, so I just filled a sandwich bag with the cream and then snipped of the corner, but it would look pretty piped with a large round nozzle, or even a large french nozzle. Pipe a little cream into each of the cookie cups, then pop a raspberry in, followed by another swirl of cream, and a second raspberry for each cup.

Finally, crush some of the mini meringues in a bowl, and then sprinkle on top of the cream in each of the cups. If you knew all of the cookie cups were going to be eaten straight way, I would mix the meringue in with the cream and then pipe them into the cups together. But as there was only myself and Auntie Bear to consume them, having 8 each would have been a tad excessive. (But not impossible!)

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And as for The Great British Bake off – I had no idea what a Rum Baba was. But it’s now on the to-bake list!

Dandelion and Burdock

Dandelion and Burdock

Dandelion and what?? Yes, that was my reaction when I first saw this flavour drink on the shelves at ASDA. (Yes, another supermarket trip. Did I mention I almost live there?) You know when something sounds so very very wrong, but your almost compelled to try it? Those peanut butter and jelly people know what I’m talking about. And those people who eat bacon with their pancakes.

So I was compelled to buy it, and I’m really glad I did, because it is perfect in cakes! If anyone wants to know what Dandelion and Burdock tastes like, don’t read this blog, because I am about to have a rubbish attempt at describing it.

It has a star anis flavour running through it, (some people say liquorice, but it’s not, because I hate liquorice,) and also maybe a bit of cherry/almond flavouring and a tiny sharpness of ginger? See, I did warn you my description would be rubbish! Apparently it’s American cousin is root beer, but having never tried root bear, I don’t know if this is true or another liquorice type lie.

If you want to try and make these yourself, buy some Dandelion and Burdock sodastream and add 1 tbsp to your normal 16 cupcake vanilla batter, instead of the vanilla, and bake as normal. I added 1.5 tsp of the syrup to a standard batch of buttercream, and that was strong enough for me, but adjust it to your individual tastes.

All the drinks packaging I have seen for Dandelion and Burdock have been purple (I think because Burdock has purple flowers?) hence the purple buttercream which I used Sugarflair grape violet paste for, and because I had run out of piping bags, I attempted a Hummingbird bakery style swirl on top. And failed!

Mummy Bear x

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