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Toddler trouble.

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The Bears and I have been absent for a while. There is a very good reason for this, and it comes in the shape of a not-so-small two year old. I tried baking with him.

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It ended in a state of sugar induced hyperactivity, a broken measuring jug and very very little sleep. Oh yes, and a cake which looked like I had assembled it, run over it with the car, and then tried to fix it up again.

Image(It’s a Maple Syrup and Pecan layer cake with marscapone frosting, from Delia’s gorgeous new book. It did taste fantastic, but not fantastic enough to warrant only two hours sleep.)

And then I tried baking without him. This time the cakes were at least edible looking. And tasted exactly as they should:

 Image(These are Turkish Delight Bear-y Cakes: Chocolate cake, topped with a rose flavoured buttercream and dark chocolate sprinkles. Recipe may follow. Should the Toddler ever sleep.)

However, my living room wall no longer looked like it should:

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Neither did Daddy Bear’s computer screen. Or the sofa. And so, we stopped baking.

That completes my absence letter.

We hope to be back soon!

Mummy Bear x

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Challenge Accepted

Mummy Bear has given up Facebook for lent, and is trying to develop new ways in which to procrastinate and NOT write an essay on the role of the professional practitioner in implementing the Early Years Foundation Stage.

Therefore we have decided to take up the Comic Relief Bake Off Challenge, and bake every recipe in the Great Comic Relief Bake Off book before Red Nose Day. Which gives us 25 days to bake 14 recipes. SIMPLES. Except at some point – next week- everyone goes back to school, which really only gives us 10 days. As Gimli would say: “Certain chance of death. Small Chance of success. What are we waiting for?”

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First up: Sticky Brownies.

I’m not going to share the recipe, because you NEED to buy the book, it’s all for charity. But, I will say we adapted the recipe a TEENY bit, in that we had no vanilla essence, so we used orange extract. And it said to add either chocolate chunks OR nuts. We added white chocolate chunks AND chopped hazelnuts. Because Baby Bear isn’t really one for following rules. And because Granny Bear had provided us with plenty of both.

So, one down, 13 to go. I fear a food coma coming on.

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.

Ingredients

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

Confessions of a dumb brunette

Confessions of a dumb brunette

These Peanut butter and marshmallow sandwich cookies came about only due to me being a complete airhead. A month or so ago, I bought a jar of peanut butter (the bears are not peanut butter sandwich fans) and a packet of jelly, because I wanted to make peanut butter and jelly bear-y cakes. But then Daddy Bear pointed out (whilst in mild hysterics) that when people refer to peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, they actually mean jam. I was disappointed to say the least and suddenly didn’t fancy it at all.

So out of this came a combination I did want to try – peanut butter and marshmallow fluff. I made a simple peanut butter cookie dough (8oz peanut butter, 8oz castor sugar, 1 egg, splash of vanilla essence – I know, no actual butter or flour, how cool!!) and baked it in the oven for 12 minutes at 180C. Once cooled I spread marshmallow fluff onto the underside of a cookie, and then sandwiched it together with a second cookie.

(With thanks to Heartsong cakes and crafts for the original peanut butter cookie recipe)

Mummy Bear x

Easy like a Sunday morning…

As Daddy Bear was drinking his coffee yesterday, he began moaning (as all men do) about the apparent lack of biscuit to accompany said coffee. I offered him some chocolate courgette cakes and he laughed in my face (Baby Bear gets his distaste for vegetables from his father) I offered to bake him some lavender shortbread, and he asked me if he looked like a bumble bee. I gave up and went back to explaining to Baby Bear why throwing remote controls out of the bedroom window was a little bit naughty.

A few minutes later I heard banging and rummaging coming from the kitchen, and my heart leapt into my mouth. On closer inspection I could see Daddy Bear was about to open the avalanche cupboard. (You know the one I mean, the one where you open it to get the baking powder out and every single ingredient jumps out into your half mixed batter secretly willing you to use it!) I stepped in and rescued the situation by volunteering to find everything he needed, and discovered that he had taken it upon himself to bake biscotti. Somewhat generously I offered to help, but was brushed aside with sweeping statements of ‘it’s just following a recipe. I can read.’ and ‘How hard can it be?!’ to which I beat my hasty retreat. I did however manage to grab the recipe he was loosely using (from BBC Good Food).

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Almond Biscotti

145g blanched whole almonds (Daddy Bear used 100g of sliced almonds, because this is what I found in the avalanche cupboard)

1 tsp baking powder

1/8 tsp salt (Daddy Bear just turned the salt mill twice)

260g all-purpose flour (Daddy Bear used regular plain flour, and added an extra 80g whilst trying to ‘roll’ it)

150g granulated white sugar

3 large eggs

1 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

Preheat the oven to 180C and toast the almonds on a baking tray for 8 minutes, then remove from the oven and leave to cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 150C.

In a measuring jug, lightly beat together the eggs vanilla and almond extracts. Daddy Bear used a mixing bowl, and then realised a few steps later that her had run out of mixing bowls for the next steps, hence me suggesting to use a measuring jug!

In a separate bowl, combine the flour, sugar, salt, and baking powder and mix until evenly blended. Gradually add the egg mixture and beat until a dough forms. At this point Daddy Bear was losing his enthusiasm for the task and dumped the whole egg mix into the flour in one go. I can say it made no real difference! As the dough begins to come together, add the toasted almonds and then continue to combine the mixture. It will get to the point where it is too thick for a spoon, and at this point Daddy Bear finished off combining it with his hands.

It then started to go a little wrong for Daddy Bear. I could tell this was happening because the decibel levels from inside the kitchen were increasing at an alarming rate and becoming frequently punctuated with  profanity. I went to see what was causing the outburst, and was met by the greeting: ‘Roll???!!! How on earth to they expect me to roll this stuff??’ accompanied by the frantic waving of very sticky dough covered fingers. I suggested he pop a little more flour into the dough and then just shape it onto the greaseproof paper as well as he could. Much muttering under the breath ensued, followed by a cloud of flour. The dough was shaped and in the oven.

The dough should be shaped into a log about 35 cm long, and 10 cm wide. Daddy Bear’s was a bit shorter and fatter, but to be honest, he’s not that great with measuring. More on that later. Bake the dough in the centre of the oven for 40 minutes, and then remove and leave to cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes.

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The next step in the recipe advises to cut the baked log into slices 1/2 inch thick diagonally and arrange on a baking tray. Well, after the sticky fingers fiasco and near miss avalanche, I was subtly making excuses to sneak into the kitchen and steal a glance and came across this:

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After quietly pointing out that the slices might be a little on the thin side, Daddy Bear insisted I get a ruler to measure them. Turns out I was right, and Daddy Bear has been vastly under estimating the size of an inch. [Insert your own jokes here]

Once arranged on the baking tray, return to the oven and bake for 10 minutes on each side (until they are very firm) and then remove from the oven and cool.

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Enjoy on a Lazy Sunday Morning with a good coffee and an even better book. Who am I kidding? I wolfed these down this morning in between retrieving the tv remote from various window ledges and trying to explain to Big Bear where heaven is EXACTLY. 

They were good. But Daddy Bear moaned. Turns out he’s ‘not a squirrel’ either.

Mummy Bear x

Blondies have more fun

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I used to laugh at Daddy Bear for reading non fiction computer books for ‘fun’, until he pointed out that I spent exactly the same amount of time, reading and re-reading recipe books for ‘fun’ and that I was even worse because I colour coded the recipes I wanted to try with post stick notes and annotated the sides with little comments once I’d made them. There is a point to this. Kind of.

Anyway, one of the recipes I post-sticked and then didn’t bake for ages were Blondies. I was drawn to them because they have a witty name, and also because all the recipes seemed to have copious amounts of white chocolate in. And that can never be wrong. If you’re wondering what Blondies are, they’re like brownies in texture and shape and bake, but without the cocoa making them brown. If you bake Blondies with milk chocolate chips in, they’re called Blondies with roots. Clever huh?! Well, maybe I’m just easily amused.

The reason I didn’t bake them for ages is because I could never decide exactly which recipe to use, and what types of nuts and extra stuff to put in them. It’s almost like a researched them too much. In the end I baked them on the spur of the moment, after a friend remind me about them, and only had white chocolate and walnuts in the cupboard. But it turns out it was an awesome combination which I accidentally stumbled upon, so I thought I’d share!

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White chocolate and Walnut Blondies

150g plain flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

115g butter

200g light brown sugar

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla essence

100g chopped walnuts

125g chopped white chocolate

Preheat your oven to 170C. Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Melt the butter in a saucepan on a gentle heat, then remove from the heat and stir in the brown sugar using a whisk. The recipe used suggested then adding the flour mix and all the other ingredients into the pan, but I hadn’t read ahead properly, so had only used a teeny tiny pan, making this impossible.

So this is what I did next: Beat the egg and vanilla into the bowl of flour, then pour in the butter and sugar mixture and mix well. Add in the walnuts and chocolate chips and mix until they’re evenly combined.

Put all of the mixture into a 20 cm square tin, spread so it’s flat and then bake in the oven for 20-25 mins until it’s golden and cracked looking on the top. Remove from the oven and leave to cool. If you’re ridiculously impatient like Mummy Bear, pop it outside to cool, or if you’re even more impatient, in the freezer. Once cool, cut it into squares in the tin, and then lift each square out individually using a flexible or slotted turner. (No, I didn’t know that that was the name of the utensil I seem to use for everything. Google knew though.)

The Blondies will be quite gooey to start with, so if you prefer them firmer, either bake for longer, or when cooled, place on some kitchen towel and leave out on the side for a couple of hours and they firm up. In fact, these seemed to be even better when eaten the next day…. it’s just making them last that long which is the issue!

Mummy Bear x

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