Monday, 26 November 2012

Family advent calendar

I saw something on pinterest about doing a hand-made advent calendar with things to do each day instead of the ubiquitous chocolate. My children are dairy-free, so they can't have a chocolate advent calendar, and this seemed like a nice idea to do instead.

In Ikea, I bought a set of 24 little paper bags with number stickers from 1 - 24 included. I bought some cheap wooden pegs in the pound shop and some nice christmas ribbon on eBay. Charlotte stuck all the stickers on the pegs, Emma unfolded all the bags and I attached them all to ribbons tied between all the curtain fixtures.

 I found a nice Christmassy font, and printed out a thing to do for each day. Some are dates that are already arranged, but others may get moved around depending on how I feel on the day! The idea is that we all do the activity as a family and it makes sure we don't forget any of the things we love to do in the run up to Christmas.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Mulling spice cake

I had a thought, would it be possible to make a cake that replicates mulled wine? I love mulled wine so today I had a go at making something that, while not quite a mulled wine cake, is still pretty tasty. I based it on the orange and poppyseed cake, mainly because it uses milk, which is the key to getting the flavours into the cake.


120ml sweetened soya milk
170g caster sugar
2 eggs
170g self raising flour
140g soya margarine
Zest of 1 orange
Zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp cloves
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract


In a small saucepan, add the nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon to the soya milk. Warm for about 1/2 hour without letting it boil, then allow to cool.
Weigh out all the rest of the ingredients, place in a large bowl with the eggs, zests and finally add the strained soya milk.
Use an electric whisk to blend all the ingredients to make a smooth, soft batter.
Pour into a lined loaf tin and bake at 180c for about 50 minutes, until a skewer pushed into the top of the cake comes out clean.
Cool in the tin.

I think I need to do more with this cake, but I'm not sure what at the moment. It should have a syrup, I think, like a lemon drizzle cake. What I will try is to reduce down some mulled wine and sugar to make a syrup, then drizzle that on it.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Christmas is coming

I have been very busy making, but not blogging about it. Naughty? No, just didn't want to start talking about Christmas too soon. I am making loads of stuff to sell at the school Christmas fair in 2 weeks, and over the next few posts I shall be sharing what I have been up to.

My first make, is comic book tree decorations. The shapes were made of a mixture of salt dough and salt ceramic, then covered with ripped up vintage comics, using pva glue to both stick and seal the paper to the shape.

Salt dough ingredients
1 cup salt
2 cup plain flour
1 cup warm water
Mix the salt and flour, then add the water and mix well to make a dough. Kneed for a few minutes to smooth the dough.

Salt ceramic ingredients
1 cup salt
1/2 cup cornflour
2/3 cup of water
Mix all the ingredients then slowly heat while constantly stirring until it thickens and forms a thick paste.

I like the lighter colour dough that salt ceramic gives, but it did seem to crack while drying, so I made a batch of salt dough and a batch of salt ceramic then mixed the two together. The resulting dough was paler than salt dough with the slight sparkly quality of salt ceramic. It was easy to work, and dried nicely in the oven.

I rolled the dough, using flour to stop it sticking to the rolling pin or worktop, then cut out the shapes using cookie cutters. While the cutter was still surrounding the shape, I pushed a chopstick end into the dough to make the hanging hole. This way, you don't affect the shape of the final piece by making the hole in it.

The shapes were then placed on baking trays and dried in the oven for a few hours at about 100c turning them to make sure they dry on both sides. Once they are dry and cool, you can decorate them. Then string them and hang them up.

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Gingerbread Pudseys

It is Children in Need time, and today at school we held a cake sale to raise some money. I was determined to theme my baking, and what better way than this?
I used my gingerbread recipe, then used rolled white icing and icing pens to add the details. Simple, yet effective.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Gluten-free and dairy-free peach cobbler

I wanted to bake a pudding last night, but there were no eggs left. I very nearly gave up on the idea, but then I remembered a peach cobbler recipe I made a while ago. It is incredibly easy to make, so I thought I'd try a gluten-free version.


1 cup self-raising gluten free flour blend
1 cup icing sugar
1 cup sweetened soya milk
1 tin of peach slices
4oz soya margarine


Put a baking dish into the oven at 190c with the margarine in it.
While that is warming, mix the flour, sugar and milk together.
Take the baking dish out and make sure the margarine has melted and spread across the baking dish. Pour the batter slowly on top and do not mix.
Drain the peaches and place these all over the top of the batter.
Bake for about 50 minutes at 190c

Serve warm with ice cream.

Unfortunately, there was still a some partly cooked batter in the middle of the pudding. It was ok to eat, but I wasn't happy with it. The crunchy top was great, though, and Charlotte wants to make it again, so I need to sort out my quantities. I think a little less milk may be the answer.

Friday, 9 November 2012

Dairy-free and gluten-free cupcakes

Hooray! I did it, I made cupcakes that are passable as regular ones, but with no wheat or dairy hiding inside. It was dead simple, thanks to my new favourite brand of flour.

I made my 4:4:4:2 sponge mix with vanilla extract, but added 2 tsp soya milk as the flour needs a little extra moisture to stop the cakes being too dry.

The children had them after their dinner and have declared them "the best cupcakes ever" which may be down to the fact that they were ecstatically happy at being allowed cakes for pudding. They do go a bit over-the-top when they are given a treat, but it made for one very happy mummy!

Monday, 5 November 2012

Gluten-free flour experiment

Wheat doesn't seem to do me much good, so I am cutting back on the amount I eat. Less toast, sandwiches and pasta are pretty easy to do, but cake and biscuits is another matter altogether. I discovered Doves organic gluten-free flour blend the other day, and decided to try it out. The way I see it, if you can hardly tell the difference, why bother with wheat in the first place? I am going to be a harsh critic though, as I don't see the point in eating a cake if it isn't delicious!

All that was left of the banana bread after one sitting.
So, first of all I made a batch of dairy-free and wheat-free pancakes, using my pancake recipe but with the new flour and a little extra soya milk. The girls told me they were better than the normal ones, although I thought they were a little more chewy than normal. The flour passed it's first test.

Next, I made my banana bread using the flour. Again, I added a little soya milk to soften the batter up, as the flour absorbs more moisture than normal flour. The cake cooked in the same amount of time as normal, and tasted exactly the same. The only difference was a slightly powdery texture on the crust, but I didn't mind that at all. Test 2 - pass.

I also made some yorkshire pudding batter using the flour, and made myself some wheat-free courgette fritters like my mum used to make for my lunch yesterday. Literally, slices of courgette about 1/2cm thick dipped in the batter and fried. They were exactly as I remembered them, so must have been just right. Test 3 - passed with distinction!

More tests to go, but at this rate I might just give up on wheat flour all together!

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Pub stool makeover

Many years ago, when I moved in with Tom, I started using an old pub stool of his to sit at my dressing table. It was never pretty, but it did the job, even though I looked at it every time I used it and thought "I should do something with that."

Well, I finally did it. Hooray! I took the seat off and removed all the fabric and padding. While that was off I mixed some white satinwood paint with artist acrylic paint to make a colour that I liked. I bought an off-cut of a neutral upholstery fabric in the local fabric shop and matched the paint to it. Once the wooden part was dry, I was able to do the seat. I had a piece of cushion foam cut to fit the round chipboard seat base, then made a cover with the fabric. Easy to do, just cut a circle the same size as the seat base with 1cm seam allowance added all round. Then I cut 2 long strips of fabric to make the sides. Once the sides were sewn to the circle, I just pulled it tight over the foam base and stapled it under the chipboard base. Then I screwed the legs back on and it was finished.

Friday, 2 November 2012

Fun bath time for the kids

This was a pretty simple idea that I saw online, all I did was buy a pack of glowsticks (15 for £1 in a local cheap shop) and put them all in the bath. They are watertight, so there is no danger of leakage into the water and now the clocks have gone back it is dark enough at bath time to get the full effect.
The girls (scribbled out in the picture to protect their modesty) loved it: