Monday, 30 July 2012

Marshmallow Pops

This is another 'make' from the activity packs I've made for my children this summer and one that the whole family had a lot of fun with.

I can't be specific on quantities here, it depends how piggish your family is! But this is what we used:

1 bag of pink and white marshmallows
50g white chocolate
50g dark chocolate (you could use milk if you wanted)
A variety of sprinkles/coloured sugar/coconut/dried strawberry

Tray/baking sheet
Skewers/straws or cake pop sticks

Firstly line a tray or baking sheet with foil. Make sure it's long enough to lay your wooden skewers/lollipop sticks on.

Then push the marshmallows onto the skewers or sticks. I've seen suggestions of using straws, but if you do I'd suggest cutting a small slit into each marshmallow before pushing the straw in. Then pop the marshmallows on sticks into the freezer (this will help the chocolate set faster).

Whilst the mallow pops are freezing, break the chocolate into separate bowls and melt in the microwave. Do this in short bursts to prevent overheating it. Whilst the chocolate melts, put a little of each type of sprinkle into a small container ready for dipping.

Once the sprinkles are sorted and the chocolate is melted, bring the mallow pops out of the freezer and dip each firstly into one of the chocolates, then into your desired sprinkle. Lay carefully on the foil and allow to set.

Tie together in bunches for a gift, or if you're like us, eat them up as soon as possible and feel really full and happy after :-)

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Sausage and Spaghetti Spiders

Those of you who read my other blog The Boy's Behaviour, will know that I'm attempting to make our summer holidays smoother by planning to the Nth degree. I've lovingly and carefully prepared activity packs which include everything needed for a variety of different activities. Some are ten minutes things, others are science experiments which take a number of days to finish, others are good for an hour or two. And they vary from crafts, to science things, to nature/wildlife to foodie makes.

The Sausage and Spaghetti Spiders came from an idea I saw on Pinterest. Along with providing half an hour of snapping, cutting and skewering, it also provided lunch for Mini and Dollop. So I made sure I did this activity with the children just before lunch, it meant they got to eat the results almost straight away :-)

Makes enough for 4 children:

1 tin of hotdog sausages (8 in a tin)
Dried spaghetti
Pasta sauce (we used a small portion of my versatile tomato sauce)
Cheese, grated

Put a large pan of water onto the hob and bring to boiling point. Whilst this is heating, ask the children to cut each hot dog sausage into 3 equal pieces - these will create the bodies. Make sure you supervise them when using knives.

Then have the children snap the spaghetti lengths into 3 or 4 pieces...they don't have to be equal, in fact we liked it when they weren't!

Push 4 pieces of dried spaghetti into each cut end of the sausage pieces. Push them in a little way being careful not to piece the sides of the sausage. They'll look something like this:

When each sausage has had all it's legs poked in, carefully place them into the boiling water. Cook until the spaghetti is soft and the sausages hot through. Remove each 'spider' using a slotted spoon.

Whilst the 'spiders' are cooking, heat up your pasta sauce. Then place a pool of it in the bottom of each child's plate/bowl. Serve 6 spiders per person, with an extra blob of sauce on top if required, and a sprinkling of grated cheese.

Here's a picture before we added more sauce and cheese...

Mini is something of a sausage connoisseur and wasn't particularly taken by the hot dogs, although he did eat it all up. Dollop on the other hand isn't at all fussy and wolfed the whole lot down! Hubby is also looking forward to 'testing' them with the remainder of the hot dogs!

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Chocolate fudge

Mini came home from school yesterday asking if he could make cards and a present for his teacher and classroom assistants as it is the end of term tomorrow.
I'd half had it in mind that I'd make fudge, and had all the ingredients in already, so I thought it would be perfect for Mini (5) to have a go at making. And presented in pretty cellophane bags with pink ribbons made a lovely pressie.

The recipe I used is based on the one printed on the side of the condensed milk tin, but having made it before, I decided to tweak it a little bit.

Makes around 64 pieces:

397g tin of condensed milk (apparently this doesn't work with the light version, so get the full on one!)
400g dark chocolate (I use the 'value' version which is not only cheap, but not quite as rich as branded ones)
30g margarine
125g icing sugar (sifted)

Break the chocolate into pieces. Then add it to a large pan along with the condensed milk and margarine. Stir occasionally til smooth and glossy.

Whilst the chocolate melts, line a 20cm x 20cm tin with cling film.

Once melted, add the icing sugar and beat until thick, firm and all icing sugar traces have disappeared. (I did this in my kenwood mixer with the k-beater for ease.

Press into the prepared tin and pop in the fridge until set. Score and cut, then enjoy!

For some variation, you can dust in icing sugar or cocoa before serving.
Or try pressing some chopped nuts/sugar sprinkles/coloured sugar into the surface of the fudge before chilling.

Thursday, 12 July 2012

My versatile tomato sauce

This is one of my favourite makes. My kids love pasta, and usually ask for it with this basic tomato sauce, which I make myself. It's a great sauce and is really versatile...I've used it as a base to mix with mince for bolognaise and lasagna; as a base for soup; served cold as a dip; on homemade pizza; as a layer in a spinach and ricotta quiche; and I also vary it by adding different herbs and sometimes vegetables that are a bit past their best to make a hidden vegetable sauce too.

No pics I'm afraid because it got wolfed down so quickly I didn't get a chance to get the camera out!

This recipe makes a really large batch, so I freeze half for another day:

2 tins of tomatoes (chopped or plum)
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 clove of garlic (or 1 cube if using frozen)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp dried oregano
A pinch of sugar
A little olive oil

In a saucepan, fry the onion in oil until just softening, then add the garlic. Fry for another minute or so, then add the tinned tomatoes.
I then half fill each can with water and add this to the saucepan. (This helps thin the sauce, but also rinses the tins for recycling too).
Let this come up to simmering point and then add the vinegar, sugar, oregano and puree, stir and continue to simmer for around 15-20minutes.
I use a stick blender to blend until smooth as neither I or the kids like lumpy tomatoes, but you could leave it with some texture if you prefer.

The longer you can simmer the sauce the richer it will be, but I'd suggest 15minutes is the quickest you'd want to do it.
If using other vegetables too, add them with the tomatoes - fresh tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms all work really well, but I've also used carrots and aubergines.You could also add fresh basil right at the end.
Wait until completely cold if freezing, and always let thaw before reheating thoroughly - you'll find it might split a bit when freezing, but it comes back together when reheated.

Saturday, 7 July 2012

First bake - malted chocolate and vanilla cupcakes

Hi and welcome to my new blog - Cakes, Bakes and Makes.

Here I aim to share some of the things that I make - some regularly, some not so regularly, and if I'm brave enough, I might even share some of the disasters too! I love baking, and love eating the results, and with a hungry husband and 2 young children, I always have willing testers too.

But I don't just make cakes; I like baking savoury things and I like to cook generally. And, I like doing craft activities too - often with the children. So hope to feature all these on the blog at some point soon.

So for my first bake, I want to share my malted chocolate and vanilla cupcakes with you, this recipe makes 12:

For the vanilla cupcakes:
3 eggs
175g margarine
175g sugar(granulated works fine, or caster)
175g self raising flour
vanilla extract (never flavouring)

For the malted chocolate icing and decoration:
2tbs malt extract
9ozmargarine, softened
18oz icing sugar
2oz cocoa
1 bag of maltesers, keep 12 for the tops, but crush the remainder of the packet into sprinkles.

Preheat your oven to around 180° C. 
Line a 12 hole muffin tin with either cupcake or muffin cases.

In a mixer, by hand or with an electric handwhisk, cream together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Then add one egg, swiftly followed by a dessert spoonful of the flour, beat for a moment. Then repeat the process for the remaining eggs. Add the vanilla and finally beat in the remaining flour.
Divide this mixture evenly between the cases and cook for around 12-15minutes until the sponges are lightly browned and spring back when pressed lightly. Remove from the tin and allow to cool on a rack until completely cold.

To make the icing, first beat together the malt extract and margarine. Then add the icing sugar and cocoa. You and your kitchen will get covered in a cloud of icing sugar if you're not careful - my mixer comes with a guard which helps contain the mix within, but you could also use a dampened tea-towel over the bowl to help lessen the white dusting! If the icing looks to soft to pipe or looks like it might not hold a piped swirl, then add more icing sugar a little at a time. If it looks too stiff, then you could add a dribble of milk until it's the desired consistency.

Now the choice is yours - either fill a piping bag and pipe the icing onto your cupcakes, or spread it on with a spoon or palette knife. Immediately sprinkle over some of the crushed maltesers and top with a whole one. 

There you go, my first bake for you. I'll add that this is my basic cupcake recipe and I tweak it with flavours and textures, but I almost always start with this as a base.
Maltesers as a sprinkle to tend to go a little sticky and lose their crunch within a day or so, so don't make these too far in advance.

The malt icing is quite strong so you can adjust to taste, or you might like to try a stout flavour cupcake with this icing - it can take a lot of flavour underneath.

Enjoy x