The children and I decided to try to make the “Christmas wreaths” on Saturday morning. These are essentially marshmallow treats except with cornflakes instead of Rice Krispies. We made zero attempts to create wreaths as I have no idea how you manipulate the crunchy gloop before it becomes impossibly sticky. It also didn’t help that Keiki accidentally dumped out the entire tube of sprinkles on the first blob I put down on the baking parchment. There was a delay whilst we salvaged as many as we could from the kitchen counter. By then the marshmallow gloop had partially set.

It didn’t matter what they looked like anyway. We made twelve of them at 10:30. They had set by 12:30.

There were three left at 15:00, in spite of the bloke declaring that they were a little too sweet for him. (He ate three.) Photographic evidence of the remainder is below. Keiki's sprinkle-bonanza treat is the one on the lower right, in case that wasn't obvious.
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We then revisited the chocolate biscuit recipe from the bloke’s birthday. Because they were just that tasty. Hopefully those will keep us all in good spirits this week.
nanila: little and wicked (mizuno: lil naughty)
( Feb. 15th, 2017 05:19 pm)
Today is Very Important Day. Today is Bloke's Birthday. And hence, there has been BAKING. Behold!

Star cookies (from the dough reserved at the weekend)
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That most American of treats, pecan pie (with toasted almonds, because I didn't have enough pecans, ho hum)
Pies, we made PIES!

And choccy biccies. Huzzah!
Choccy biccies
On Saturday I went back to an old favourite: Nigella’s Gold Dust Cookies. Which, I have to admit, I never make with the edible gold dust. It’s a great dough for cutting into shapes. And they taste great, as long as you halve the amount of vanilla in them. I find this is a rule of thumb with Nigella’s recipes from this era of her cookbooks.

Anyway, I made up the dough quickly on Saturday and wrapped it in clingfilm to chill. After the discomfiting events of Sunday, we baked them. I put both children on the our kitchen peninsula. We floured the work surface, rolled out the dough and they plied the cutters. Humuhumu made very nice hearts and ghosts. Keiki made wonky pumpkins and circles.

I’ve reserved half the dough so we can make more cookies on Wednesday for a Special Occasion.
I did a lot more baking than I'd intended this weekend. Saturday morning we did Parkrun, then came home and made pancakes & French toast for brunch for some friends. In the afternoon, the pre-schooler and I set to work making cupcakes. I have this delightful cupcake recipe book, Lily Vanilli: A Zombie Ate My Cupcake, which was given to me a few Christmases ago by sister-out-law. We've only once made one of the recipes in full - the meringue ghost cupcakes for Humuhumu's birthday, and that's when we learnt that the base recipes for the cupcakes and the icing are really good just on their own. The fancy ghoulish decorations are fun, but unnecessary.

We decided to make the pecan, cinnamon & nutmeg cupcakes and the vanilla icing. Humuhumu helped with the measuring and the pouring but lost interest while they baked in the oven. When we finally got to the icing stage, I didn't bother calling her back and started doing the icing and the sprinkles. My parents rang after I'd completed decorating three of the 18 cupcakes and I stepped away from the kitchen to take their call. I walked back in to find Humuhumu expertly applying both icing and sprinkles to the remaining cupcakes.

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[Photo: Humuhumu puts sprinkles on a freshly iced cupcake. There is cauliflower cheese baking in the oven behind her.]

I should note that today there are eight cupcakes left so I'm not expecting them to last more than 72 hours.

One thing I knew about Lily Vanilli's recipes but had somehow managed to forget was that her icing recipes make about double the amount of icing one can reasonably put on a single batch of her cupcakes. Either I should have halved the recipe or made 36 cupcakes. There was a lot of extra icing, which I was determined not to waste.

On Sunday morning, the bloke took the children to gymnastics and I scanned through my Nigella Christmas cookbook for a cake recipe. I settled on the sticky gingerbread, which is fancier than the ginger cake I normally make though still pretty easy, and is listed as "icing optional". The recipe is vague on length of time required in the oven - 45 to 60 minutes seems a rather wide temperature range. I took a punt on it and left it in for 52 minutes at 150 degrees C (fan on) and that turned out perfectly. After it cooled, I poured the remaining vanilla icing over it and we had slices of it at tea time. It was hoovered up by everyone and we have agreed that it is one we will definitely make again.
I only had a chance to try one new recipe from Nadiya’s Kitchen this weekend, and it was the one for “Ovaltine Bedtime Biccies”, which Humuhumu and Keiki helped with. I’m not a huge fan of Ovaltine so I substituted my favourite hot chocolate (Twinings Swiss Chocolate Drink) instead. I have no regrets. They have a smooth texture, are not excessively sweet and are terribly morish.

Humuhumu and Keiki were varying degrees of helpful. She’s very good at cracking eggs, and pretty good at measuring out ingredients and stirring. Keiki is very good at tasting things to make sure that they’re okay. After each addition, he says, “More taste…?” They are both good at flouring work surfaces (and themselves), and of course the greatest pleasure is rolling out and cutting up the dough with the cookie cutters. Keiki particularly likes the part where bits of dough cling to the cutters and have to be removed. Half of those go back into the dough for re-rolling and the other half go into Keiki.
I've used baking as a form of stress relief - and to keep myself away from back-lit screens - off and on for years.

I received Nadiya’s Kitchen, the cookbook by 2015’s Great British Bake Off winner Nadiya Hussein, as a birthday present last year. Apart from admiring the photos of her, her food and her adorable children making and eating the food, I hadn’t really done much with it. So I’ve decided to, you know, spend some time making the recipes. Since she won GBBO for cooking fancy desserts, I’m starting with the easiest baked goods recipes. Here’s what I’ve attempted thus far.

Biscotti: Oh man, these turned out really well. Better than Paul Hollywood's. (His “Bread” book is typically the one we turn to when making, er, bread.) I didn’t have everything in her recipe, so instead of cranberries there were sultanas and instead of currants there were chopped dried apricots. It didn’t matter in the slightest. They are delicious and are being yummed up by the family at an alarming rate.

Grapefruit cat’s tongues: These are a sort of madeleine-like biscuit, except thinner. Butter, icing sugar, egg whites, flour and a bit of salt. No bicarb - all the fluff comes from the egg whites. The biscuits are supposed to be piped onto the baking paper, which I couldn’t be bothered with, so I just treated the dough like I would for a drop-cookie and made little blobs that spread out into circles. Delicious, melt-in the mouth circles. Again, I didn’t have a grapefruit handy so I zested a lemon instead. I suspect any citrus flavouring, or vanilla, could be substituted into this recipe.

Honeycomb: This was my first failure. Honeycomb should be ridiculously easy to make. It is, after all, simply sugar, honey and bicarb. Somehow mine fell flat. I heated the sugar and honey and stirred until it all went golden, but my two teaspoons of bicarb produced only dispirited fizzing and not the vigorous bubbling it ought to have done. The bloke and I puzzled over this and tested the bicarb in some lemon juice, whereupon it behaved as normal. We concluded that perhaps our local Worcestershire honey was simply not acidic enough, and that next time I should add a splash of balsamic or lemon juice to produce the desired air bubbles. What I made is more like very chewy toffee. It still tastes good though.
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