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Autumn, the year’s last, loveliest smile.

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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.

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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!

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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

Biting off more than I can chew?

Hands up, I confess, I am a bit of a perfectionist, and a lot of a control freak. (Don’t tell Daddy Bear I admitted it!) Especially when it comes to baking and blogging about baking. It would take a lot of wine or hideous computer error for me to post true baking disasters. But I am also one not to resist a challenge, and when a fellow baker challenged me to attempt – for the first time ever – a swiss roll, I could not resist it. However the catch was however it turned out looking, I had to post a photograph on Facebook. I may have bitten off more than I could chew. (Or bake).

The result:

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The control freak in me went into over drive – note the mug hiding the end of the roll, and the fact that I cringe about the looseness every time I look at the photograph. But a deal is a deal!

The recipe I followed is the one shared by my fellow baker, and having never made a swiss roll before I followed it almost to the letter.

Traditional swiss roll

Vegetable oil for greasing

3 large eggs (ideally at room temperature)

125g golden caster sugar

125g plain flour

1 tablespoon warm water

Half a jar of raspberry or strawberry jam, about 200g

Icing sugar for dusting

Preheat the oven to 200 C / 180 C fan / Gas 6. Cut a piece of greaseproof paper to fit the base of the tin you are using (I used a large roasting tin as I hand no swiss roll tin) approx 30x25cm. Grease the bottom of the tin, then put in the paper and grease that too, and dust with caster sugar and a little flour.
Beat the eggs and caster sugar in a large bowl with an electric whisk for about ten minutes. The mixture will almost triple in volume and become paler in colour, it will be thick enough so that when you lift the whisk out of the mixture it will leave a visible trail on the surface (you will notice this more prominently if you leave the mixture to stand for a minute or so). Sift in the flour in three parts, very gently folding it in until the flour is blended in completely, it is important to go slowly and not to be too vigorous or you will lose some of the air in the sponge. Fold in a tablespoon of warm water.
Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth it out evenly to the edges. Bake in the middle of the oven for 10 to 12 minutes until lightly golden and just firm to the touch. Put the jam in a bowl and stir it so it is spreadable (heat it up a little in the microwave if necessary).
Lay out a clean damp tea towel on your work surface – this is to stop the paper slipping when you roll the cake. Place a large piece of greaseproof paper that’s at least 5cm bigger than the Swiss roll on top of the towel. Dust the paper with caster sugar.
Loosen the sponge with a butter knife and then turn it out quickly onto the dusted paper (topside down). You may need to support the sponge with your hand as your turn it out. Peel the paper off the sponge. Trim the edges with a knife so you have a tidy rectangle.
Using a spoon, spread the jam evenly onto the sponge, leaving about 2cm clear around the edges as the jam will spread when rolling. Make a little incision at the edge of the sponge (not all the way through) about  1 cm in from the edge. This just helps to get the roll tighter to start with. You tend to roll the shorter side inwards.
Use the paper to help you start rolling, and roll it as tightly and as quickly as you can. Leave the roll with the seam side down to cool then dust with a little icing sugar and serve, cut then ends off to hide any raggedness, and serve!
It was absolutely delicious, very sweet and very light, but it also disappeared inside the Little Bears’ tummies within 20 minutes of me making it, so entirely sure it was worth the hard work. Although it may have taught me to be a little less concerned about achieving perfection first time around!
Mummy Bear x

Last of the summer strawberries

On Sunday it was beautiful weather – the sun was shining the wind disappeared and it finally looked like Summer had arrived. In September. Whilst out with the Bears I came across a market stall selling super cheap and teeny strawberries. So I bought two punnets, thinking I would try another thing off my must-try list: Jam. However, between the market and the Bears’ house, a whole punnet seemed to disappear. I suspect it had something to do with Big Bear’s tummy.

At least it meant my jam making attempt borderline disaster was limited to a small amount! The recipe I used was one I found using my good friend Google, chosen because it looked the easiest.

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Ingredients:

380g Strawberries

350g Caster sugar

50 ml Lemon juice

Measure all the ingredients into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Use a potato masher to mash the strawberries to the size you prefer in your jam. Bring the ingredients to the boil, and stir continually until the jam is the desired consistency. The recipe I followed suggested boiling it for 20 minutes, however, my jam was definitely more of a toffee consistency when I’d followed this instruction. Delicious, but not really spreadable! Still, I persisted and sterilized a jam jar (20 minutes at 180C in the oven, on a shelf lined with baking paper) and poured the jam into the jar and left to cool. Baking Jammie Dodgers have now moved right up the to-bake list, as I have a lot of jam/toffee to use up!

The following day Auntie Bear repeated the recipe using the same ingredients, but boiling for much less time, around 8 minutes. She also used the recipe for simple Vanilla bear-y cakes to make batch of plain cupcakes, unwrapped each one from their muffin cases once baked, sliced in half horizontally and filled with her brilliant jam to make individual Victoria sponges. These also seemed to disappear into Big Bear’s tummy before I could realise!

And as for the weather – well I had to scrape ice of the car’s windscreen this morning. So much for strawberries and summer, I think it’s time to break out the mince pies!

mintcustard

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