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Party popcorn

I’m no stranger to a kitchen mishap but the first time I attempted this rainbow coloured popcorn I nearly burnt down the house. Literally my husband had to evacuate the kids to the back garden while I tried to blow away smoke plumes with the hair dryer….

My top tips are don’t rush and try to make the 3 coloured syrups at the same time, whilst also popping the corn and supervising the kids. Things will burn… badly!

There’s a bit of heat here so full adult supervision is needed. I took the lead on this one but my 3 year old loved measuring out the sugar and stirring in the colouring.

You will need 3 saucepans and a baking tray lined with baking paper.

Ingredients

  • 100g popcorn kernels popped as per packet instructions
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 150ml water
  • Red/blue/purple food colouring
  • 200g sweets/sprinkles/mini eggs

Spread your popped corn over the baking sheet and roughly seperate into 3 piles.

In a saucepan set over a medium heat, combine 75ml water and 75g sugar with a few drops of food colour. Bring to the boil and keep bubbling for a few minutes or until the sugar has melted and the mixture is syrupy.

Pour the mixture over one third of the popcorn and mix well.

Repeat the above with the other two colours and leave the coated popcorn to cool completely.

Break up any stuck together bits of popcorn and stir in the sweets and sprinkles to serve.

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7 Layer Bars

Sometimes I worry that the kids are slightly over indulged by all the baking. I try to counteract the cake by making sure our meals are super healthy which so far I feel evens out the treats…

Then fate (social media) put these 7 Layer Bars in my path. Layers of chocolate, fudge, sweets, coconut and a buttery biscuit base….so it’s brocolli and kale salad for dinner for the rest of the week.

These cakey-biscuit bars were a completely new concept to me. I was given a bag of sweetened shredded coconut (that my mother brought back from the states and never used) so I asked Instagram What should I do with it. The overwhelming response was 7 Layer Bars.

Judy, a lovely member of the Instagram community, was lovely enough to send me her recipe which she calls LOL bars (for lots of layers). Lol bars are actually a far better name although I wasn’t lolling after i ate 3/4s of the batch and put on about 7lbs…

These are extremely customisable. We used big chunks of fudge and left out pecans whole but you can chop and change however you prefer 😀

You will need a 9″ by 12″ baking tray, well greased or lined with baking paper.

Ingredients

  • 300g digestive biscuits
  • 150g melted butter
  • 200g chocolate chips
  • 150g fudge pieces
  • 150g pecans or other chopped nuts
  • 200g Sweetened shredded coconut US or 150g dessicated coconut UK
  • 397g tin condensed milk
  • 150g mini eggs (or and chocolate/sweets)

Preheat oven to 180°C 350°F Gas Mark 6

Bash the biscuits with a rolling pin until they’re fully crumbled. Then stir in the melted butter.

Press the biscuit mixture into the base of the baking tray to form the bottom layer.

Sprinkle the Chocolate chips over the biscuit layer. Then top with the fudge pieces and pecans.

Drizzle with half the can of condensed milk.

Add the coconut and finally the mini eggs/sweets then pour over the rest of the condensed milk.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the top has lightly browned.

Allow to cool completely before cutting. The advice given to me was to chill in the fridge and this made them very easy to cut.

Slice into squares (or oddly shaped rombuses if you’re anything like me) and enjoy 😀

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Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

I love meringue and convincing myself that as it’s virtually fat free, it’s a guilt free snack! I initially made these cupcakes free from refined sugar (using Billingtons Golden Caster sugar) and dairy free (by substituting the butter with Vitalite). These switches are of course optional but if your feeling treat-concious, they keep the refined sugar and dairy out, while keeping the delicious flavour intact.

You will need a 12 hole muffin tray lined with cases.

Ingredients

  • 150g Caster Sugar
  • 150g Butter (for dairy free use Vitalite)
  • 3 Eggs
  • 175g Self Raising Flour
  • Zest and Juice of 1 Lemon

For the Italian meringue topping

  • 200g Caster Sugar
  • 150ml Water
  • 2 Egg Whites

To decorate

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

In a large bowl, mix the butter and sugar together until smooth and creamy.

Beat in the eggs before adding the lemon zest and juice.

Stir in the flour until the batter is just combined. Mixing is my kids favourite part so although the baker in me wants to whip the bowl away as soon as the mixture is combined, the messy play advocate in me let’s them over mix the batter whilst simultaneously scoffing it.

Divide the batter between the cases in the muffin tray and bake for 12-15 minutes or until raised and golden.

Allow to cool completely before adding the meringue.

So Italian meringue sounds super complicated but it’s actually pretty simple. It’s more of a job for older kids as it involves alot of heat. I had mine playing washing up at the sink whilst I put this together.

In a saucepan over a medium heat, bring the sugar and water to a constant boil.

In the meantime whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks.

Once the sugar mixture has been boiling for a least 1 minute, pour slowly into the egg whites whilst continuing to whisk at high speed.

Whisk the mixture until the meringue is lukewarm- by this time the heat of the sugar will have cooked the egg whites. So even though the meringue is soft it is not raw.

If you’re confident with a piping bag then pipe your merginue onto the cakes in a swirl. If not spoon the meringue onto the cakes and smooth with a flat knife.

Top with the confetti for prettiness and the perfect springtime treat!

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Amethyst Cookies

Amethyst Crystals are used in spiritual healing to provide calmness, prevent nightmares and cleanse your spirit. The same can not be said for these cookies. Instead of calmness you’ll have excited kids, you may have slight nightmares from the sugar consumption and there will be very little cleanliness of spirit, kitchen, floor or life as you know it!

But you will have delicious biscuits and be able to enjoy some super fun messy play with the little ones.

You will need 2 baking sheets well greased or lined with baking paper.

Ingredients

  • Portion of basic biscuit dough
  • Packet of ready to roll icing
  • 200g granulated sugar
  • Purple food colour gel/paste
  • 2x Tablespoons golden syrup
  • Golden sprinkles and/or gold food colour

Make the biscuits as per the recipe in the link above, ideally using a round cutter to get circle cookies.

In a large bowl or food processor, mix the sugar with a few drops of food colouring until all the sugar has turned purple.

Add one tablespoon of syrup and mix until the purple sugar starts to clump together slightly.

Roll out the icing as thin as you can (about 1cm) and using the same circle cutter you used for the biscuits, cut rounds of icing.

Attach the icing to the biscuits using a small amount of golden syrup.

If you have gold food colour, paint a border of gold on your icing and then add the gold sprinkles as per the next step.

Using the golden syrup as a glue, attach the gold sprinkles to the outside of the biscuits.

Using a small paintbrush or toothpick apply some purple food colour to the centre of each cookie.

Paint around the colour with golden syrup and add the purple sugar on top, pressing down in the centre.

Enjoy!

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Basic Biscuits

I still like to think of myself as young and cool…’down with the kids’ so to speak. At least that’s what I tell myself as I sing to Little Mix whilst squeezing through the rollers at soft play…

In reality I’m a mum of two in her 30s who likes to be in bed before 9.30pm and feels rebellious staying up to watch Have I got News For You.

Any delusions of being ‘with it’ were quickly shattered when I was talking about Basic Biscuits and was informed that ‘basic’ is apparently a derogatory term now! Who knew? Maybe everyone apart from me.

I’m using ‘basic’ in the traditional sense here though. So these biscuits are simple to make but really tasty, (I really recommend using real butter) and basic in the very best sense of the word.

You will need 2 baking sheets, well greased or lined with baking paper.

Ingredients

  • 350g plain flour

  • 150g caster sugar

  • 200g butter

  • 1 egg

  • Tsp vanilla essence

Preheat oven to 180° C or Gas mark 4

Giant bowl at the ready! Mix the butter and sugar together until combined, then stir in the egg and vanilla.

Pour in the flour and mix until you have a fairly stiff dough.

Roll out to apx 2cm thickness and cut into your preferred shapes using cookie cutters or a child safe knife.

If it’s a bit sticky, add more flour and also use plenty of flour on the worktop and rolling pin.

My two love rolling dough and immediately eating the raw shapes at any moment, so if you manage to get any biscuits onto the trays give yourself a pat on the back…

Pop onto your lined trays and bake for about 10 minutes or golden.

Allow to cool completely before decorating (optional).

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Vegan Cheese and Walnut Scones

Before you ask, no I’ve not gone sugar free, dairy free or vegan; but I do love experimenting with different products and recipes and as my sister is vegetarian and currently cutting out dairy I thought I’d give vegan baking a bash.

These scones are a bit of a foodie treat. The addition of the walnuts and figs (optional) give them a posh feel and the vegan cheese is a parmesan substitute so you really get that cheesy flavour without the added dairy.

You will need a baking sheet lined with baking paper or well greased.

Ingredients

  • 200g self raising flour
  • 100g wholemeal flour
  • Teaspoon baking powder
  • 100g dairy free margarine (we used Vitalite)
  • 130ml Vegetable stock (broth in US)
  • 100g chopped walnuts
  • 60g vegan Italian hard cheese substitute
  • 2 fresh figs- quartered (optional)

Preheat the oven to 190°C gas mark 5/6.

Combine the flours and baking powder with the margarine and rub together until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the cheese and walnuts and mix well.

Pour in the stock and mix to form a sticky dough.

Roll out to about an inch thick and cut into any shape you fancy. We want for triangles but rounds will work just as well.

Place on the baking sheet and top with the fig quarter.

Bake for 15 minutes or until raised and golden.

Allow to cool before serving. Delicious with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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Traffic Light Cookie Bars

Isn’t it funny how kids seem to love so many of the things we despise?

Mud: I see stains and soggy socks; kids see super fun splashy time.

Lego: I see hoover clogging, messy little foot injuring pain cubes; kids see creative play and building smashing.

And of course traffic lights: I see the red light of lateness (usually on the school run when we’ve already had ‘one of those mornings’; my kids see Ready….Steady…GO GO GO!

In all fairness their glee at watching the lights turn from red to orange then green can be pretty infectious! So I’m embracing it with these traffic light cookie bars. Gooey and chewy enough to be a satisfying grown up treat and an excellent fun activity for kids.

You will need a 12″ by 9″ rectangular baking tin or eqivilant, well greased or lined with baking paper.

Ingredients

  • 300g plain flour
  • 200g butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 150g soft brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • Teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 100g chocolate chips
  • 150g coloured chocolate beans (m&ms/Smarties etc)

Preheat the oven to 170°C Gas Mark 3

If your baking with much younger kids I would recommend separating the colours of chocolate beans into separate bowls to make it easier for them to make the traffic light pattern later on. Older kids will happily root out the red, orange and green chocolate on their own (eating the other colours along the way!).

In a large toddler friendly bowl combine the butter with both sugars and mix well until smooth.

Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until combined, then stir in the flour and chocolate chips until you have a sticky cookie dough.

Transfer into the prepared tin and smooth the surface with the back of a spoon.

Then add the traffic lights! Again there’s no need for perfection here and our bars went from red-orange-green to green-red-green to just green!

Arrange 2-3 rows of chocolate beans in straight lines vertically down the pan and approximately 6 across. Depending on the size and shapes of the tin you should get between 12 and 18 bars.

Bake for 20 minutes or until the surface of the cookie bars has turned golden.

Remove from the oven and allow to cool for about 20 minutes before slicing into bars. (You want them to be cooler but not completely cold and set)

Enjoy!

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Lemon & Courgette Cupcakes

We’ve just come out of a busy Easter weekend and I’ve learnt a few valuable life lessons.

It’s my first Easter with a child in school and I didn’t realise that bonnet making was equal to an Olympic sport in terms of competition and sheer skill. Our very homemade Poundland offering was never going to cut the mustard – note for next year, buy a glue gun and up my game.

Another lesson I’ve learnt is as a parent I need to purchase the bare minimum in terms of chocolate. The kids were given so many eggs they haven’t even noticed my secret eating of half of them!

And I’ve also learnt that I should limit the kids (and my own) sugar consumption for at least a week before in preparation. Instead I’ve spent most of this week trying to not-so-subtly add extra fruit and veg into their diets whilst hiding the chocolate mountain we’ve acquired over the weekend.

Thus the lemon and courgette cakes were born. Even though they contain roughly 220g of courgette they are still a proper cakey treat. Light and moist and the cream cheese frosting gives them a bit of an indulgent edge too.

You will need a 12 hole muffin tray, lined with cases.

Ingredients

225g Self Raising Flour

175g Butter

200g Caster Sugar

3 Eggs (chicken’s not chocolate)

1 Courgette (zucchini) grated

Zest (grated rind) and juice of 1 Lemon

Teaspoon baking powder

For the frosting

100g Full Fat Cream Cheese

15ml (tablespoon) Lemon juice

400g Icing sugar

Preheat the oven to 170°C Gas Mark 3

In your largest-kid friendly bowl, mix the butter and sugar together until creamy.

Beat in the eggs and add the grated courgette along with the zest and juice of the lemon.

It was at this stage where my 3 year old happily tucked into raw courgette (albeit covered in batter) and declared courgette was her favourite vegetable!

Add in the flour and baking powder and mix well until all ingredients are combined.

Divide between the 12 cases and bake for 20 minutes or until raised and golden.

Allow to cool completely while you prepare the frosting.

For the cream cheese frosting simply combine all ingredients and beat with a whisk or mixer until smooth.

We piped little swirls on but you can spread over or even cut the cakes in half and sandwich with the cream cheese if you prefer 😀

Enjoy!

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Triple Chocolate Cookies

Ahhh 3. The magic number in terms of chocolate combination, musketeers, and any variation of The Sugarbabes. Also the magic number of toddlers needed to produce the maximum amount of mess when baking.

I occasionally babysit my 2 year old nephew which along with my 2 toddlers makes this meme very valid…

As I always say, my kids are happiest when making a mess so I went in for the triple whammy- 3 kids, 3 varieties of chocolate and 3 times the mess.

Luckily these are 3 x as delicious as shop bought cookies which makes the mess worth it. Literally the best chocolate cookie recipe if gooey and rich cookies are your thing.

You will need 2 x baking trays lined with baking paper.

Ingredients

  • 250g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • 200g soft brown sugar
  • 120g caster sugar
  • 1 egg and 2 yolks
  • 220g melted butter
  • Teaspoon baking powder
  • 200g chopped chocolate (mixture of milk, plain and white)

Preheat the oven to 180°C Gas Mark 4

Now I’d love to give you a technical breakdown of the best way to make this cookie dough but let’s get real- we threw everything together and stirred. Most of the ingredients made it into the bowl.

Soooo combine the ingredients and mix to form a firm dough.

Roll into balls (you should get up to 20) and place well spaced on the baking trays.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they have spread out and are turning crispy on the edges.

Allow to cool on the trays before lifting off.

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Honeycomb biscuits

In case you hadn’t already guessed I am a self taught, amateur home baker.

I’m very much ‘Winging It’; the baking, blogging, parenting and life in general. This of course leads to a few gaffs along the way (like accidently publishing this post a day early before proof reading).

But I’m trying to celebrate my wins this week. I’ve written a few recipes for our local Kidscene magazine and on today’s visit to our local soft play there was a big stack of them at the entrance. I did what any shameless self promoter would do… open them all up on the page of my recipe and leave them upturned on each table…

Because despite winging my way through, I am a confident recipe developer (and walking mess), which is why I’m happiest when in the kitchen with the kids. We came up with this one by accident when experimenting with honeycomb and they were just far too delicious not to share!

You will need 2 baking trays, well greased or lined with baking paper.

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 tablespoons golden syrup
  • 50g sugar
  • 100g butter
  • Teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 200g plain flour
  • 200g milk chocolate

Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 4/ 180°C.

Pop the flour into a large, kid proof bowl and leave whilst you do the honeycomb.

In a saucepan, set over a low-medium heat, combine the golden syrup and honey and heat until the mixture is bubbling and just starting to turn darker in colour.

Add the butter and sugar until the sugar dissolves and the butter has melted and combined into the mixture.

Remove from the heat and add the bicarbonate of soda whilst stirring well.

This bit could totally be a practical science lesson if your clever enough to explain chemical reactions to preschoolers but for my kids it was me saying look at the frothy sugar!!!!

The bicarbonate reacts with the hot sugar mixture to create lots of lovely bubbles. This is brilliant viewing for little ones but is obviously hot so if you are cooking with very little ones make sure they stand way back…

Pour the mixture onto the flour and mix well. Continue to stir until the mixture fully combined into a firm dough.

If it’s too warm for little hands to roll, leave to sit until it’s cool enough to handle.

Roll small (1.5″) balls of dough and place on the baking trays, well spaced.

Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the biscuits have spread out and are a deep gold colour.

Allow to cool completely before decorating them with the chocolate.

To melt the chocolate, break into pieces and place in a microwave safe bowl. Heat in short bursts of 10-20 seconds stirring well in between.

Dip the biscuits into the chocolate and place back onto the baking sheet for the chocolate to set.

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S’mores Pies

It’s British Pie week (apparently) and I thought hmmm do you know what really sums up British pies to me? American S’mores!

Ok so that wasn’t my precise train of thought but I did want to make some sweet pies and I’d just whipped up a batch of my mother’s homemade marshmallow. So it was clearly meant to be.

S’mores as my very Welsh brain understands is a traditional American treat whereby Graham crackers are sandwiched with marshmallows and chocolate and melted together.

As much as this is baking with kids and I do think this is a perfect recipe to make with kids, these little pies are so delicious that any grown up will need cast iron willpower not to scoff the lot!

You will need a 12 hole muffin tray well greased.

Ingredients

  • 300g digestive biscuits
  • 175g melted butter
  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 200ml double cream
  • 100g marshmallows or a batch of ourhomemade marshmallows
  • Heaped tablespoon of Lotus Biscoff spread

In a large bowl crush the biscuits with a rolling pin until they resemble breadcrumbs.

Pour on your melted butter and mix thoroughly.

Press heaped spoonfuls of the mixture into the muffin tray holes, taking the crumbs up the sides to create a case. You should have enough for 9-10 pies.

Pop into the fridge to chill while you make the chocolate filling.

Break the chocolate up to chunks and pop into a bowl.

Pour the cream into a microwave safe jug and heat until boiling (1-2 minutes) and pour onto the chocolate.

Stir well until all the chocolate is melted and the mixture is well combined.

Pour the chocolate mixture into the biscuit cases and return to the fridge to cool for 1 hour.

Top with the marshmallows and drizzle with the Biscoff spread to serve.

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Nana’s Marshmallows

I am lucky to have a mum that loves my girls as much as I do. As beautiful as it is to see the close bond between the girls and their nanna it’s somewhat less beautiful to see my girls get away with absolute murder when in nanna’s care…

My mother has a sign that says ‘What happens at nanna’s, stays at nanna’s’.

3 ice creams before dinner? Only at nanna’s.

Pyjamas all day? Completely fine at nanna’s.

9pm bedtime? Why not? It’s nanna’s.

And this is the stuff I know about! Ignorance is bliss however so I’ll continue to turn a blind eye to kid spoiling as I know they’re getting as much love as sugar ❤

So this is my mother’s recipe for marshmallows and it’s delicious! Of you didn’t think you liked marshmallows you may well reconsider after these.

If you have a stand mixer definitely get it out for this one. If not you’ll need an electric whisk and the largest mixing bowl you have.

You’ll also need a 10″x 12″ baking tray or equivalent.

Ingredients

  • 300g white sugar
  • 350g golden syrup
  • 400ml water
  • Generous teaspoon vanilla extract or paste
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 packets powdered gelatine
  • 100g icing sugar

Empty all 3 packs of gelatine and 200ml water into the mixing bowl (or bowl of the stand mixer if using) and leave to sit while you make the syrup.

In a saucepan combine the sugar, 200ml water, golden syrup and salt. Heat gently until the sugar dissolves and then turn up the heat to bring the mixture to a constant boil.

If you have a sugar thermometer the syrup is ready at 115°C/240°F or softball stage.

If you haven’t got a thermometer to test if the syrup is ready, drop a bit of syrup into a jug of cold water- if it quickly sets into a soft ball it’s good to go!

Slowly pour the sugar mixture into the gelatine with the whisk on slow, taking care not to hit the beaters with the hot syrup.

When all the syrup is in, turn your whisk up to high and keep whisking for 12 -15 minutes or until the mixture has expanded to about x4 the size and is thick, fluffy and white.

Heavily dust the baking tray with icing sugar and transfer your marshmallow mixture into the tray and smooth out the top.

Leave to sit at room temperature for 8 hours or overnight to dry out before slicing into cubes to serve. Top tip: use a scissors as they are super sticky!

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Cheesy Dinosaurs

My kids love dinosaurs more than I love tea, and let me tell you, that’s a lot of love! Unlike my ability to consume 16 mugs of tea in a day though my kids aren’t great consumers of vegetables…

If you follow us on Instagram you may have already seen many of our dino themed bakes. These cheesy dinosaurs are a bit different to our usual sweet treats as they’re actually healthy and a perfect lunch for little ones.

You will need some dinosaur cookie cutters like these Kitchen Craft Dinosaur Cookie Cutters- set of four

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and two baking trays lined with foil or baking paper.

Ingredients

  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 large sweet potato
  • 1 parsnip
  • 150g grated chedder cheese
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 slices wholemeal bread, blitz in a food processor to fine breadcrumbs.

There’s a bit of grown up prep needed for these but don’t worry, there’s a mountain of messy play style high jinks soon after…

Peel the potatoes, sweet potato and parsnip and chop into chunks and boil until tender.

Drain and mash together until smooth.

You can get your little helpers involved as much as you like now 😉

Add the grated cheese and 1 egg and mix until well combined.

Smooth the mixture into one of your lined trays to 1-2 inch thickness. And chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours or until firm to touch.

Preheat the oven to 200°C Gas Mark 6.

Crack the remaining egg into a dish and beat with a fork.

Using your cutters gently press out dinosaur shapes and ease out of the cutters. This is the most fiddly part.

Dip into the beaten egg and turn to coat before dipping into the breadcrumbs.

(N.B breadcrumbs aren’t completely necessary as I discoverd when my youngest poured squash into ours and we had a few naked dinosaurs)

Place on the clean baking sheet and continue until all the potato mixture is used.

Bake for 15 minutes or until crispy.

Perfect served with a crispy salad!

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Bara Brith

We are still in the midst of the UKs longest ever winter (probably) and to top it off there’s a snow storm coming which the media are calling ‘The Beast from the East’. I however was blissfully unaware of the storm until last night as I live in a toddler controlled bubble.

My mum mentioned last night in conversation that there was no bread in Lidl. “No bread in Lidl?” I exclaimed! “But they have an in-store bakery!”

It was then that I learnt that Wales was about to be transformed into the arctic tundra… I’ve managed to miss the morning news for the past 3 years because my mornings now start at 5am with Netflix and Peppa pig- I’ve managed to avoid the car radio due to a nursery rhyme CD given to us by our local librarian, and my kids have commandeered my mobile phone for the majority of the week playing the ‘my pet and me’ game – thanks again CBeebies!

So I was predictably late to the severe weather panic buying party. Luckily we had the ingredients well stocked for a traditional Welsh teabread- Bara Brith. If you’ve tried fruited malt loaf it’s a similar thing but freshly baked and moist from tea soaked fruits. It’s far better than any shop bought fruit loaf (so take that Lidl and your wiped out bakery 😂)

You will need a 2lb loaf tin, well greased or lined with baking paper.

Ingredients

  • 500g mixed dry fruit
  • 300ml boiling tea (I used chai tea bags for extra spice)
  • 200g dark brown sugar
  • 350g self raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Teaspoon ground cinnamon

There is a bit of a grown up element to the making of this Bara Brith, which is soaking the dried fruit.

The night before you want to make this you’ll need to pop the fruit in a large bowl and pour over the hot tea (or chai if you like spice). Cover and put aside.

On the day of baking you’ll need to follow these super-complex instructions…

Preheat oven to 130°C or gas mark 1

Add all other ingredients to your tea soaked fruit and mix until well combined…

That’s literally it- we Welsh don’t mess about!

This is so perfect to make with Kids as you can literally line up the ingredients and let them crack on (No egg pun intended).

Transfer into your loaf tin (it will fill it but that’s fine)

Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until a knife inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Enjoy buttered if you fancy (it’s lovely without) and with copious amounts of tea.

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Hot Cross Buns

So you’ve decided to take on the messy mayhem of bun making with kids? Give yourself a pat on the back! It will take a few hours and be extremely messy but the results are totally worth it!

About a year ago the lovely librarian in our local library offered us a CD of nursery rhymes which they were about to throw away. Naive 2017 Catherine thought ‘why not? It’ll be nice to have some nursery rhymes while we drive’.

It’s now been a year since I’ve had the radio on in my car and I’ve heard the Current Bun song 67,352 times.

As I say these do require a bit more effort but they taste amazing and have been described as ‘a little bite of heaven’!

Ingredients

For the buns

  • 10g dried fast action yeast
  • 500g strong white flour
  • 1 egg
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 50g melted salted butter
  • 70ml warm milk
  • 200ml warm water
  • 150g sultanas
  • Grated rind of 1 orange
  • Generous teaspoon ground cinnamon

For the crosses;

  • 5 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1-2 tablespoons of water

To glaze

  • Heaped tablespoon apricot jam

If you have a stand mixer feel free to make you dough using your mixture and dough hook attachment. I foolishly opted for the old fashioned bowl and spoon method which, although brilliant fun, did result in my scraping air dried bun dough off my dining chairs for a considerable amount of time.

In a jug, combine the water, sugar and yeast, and sit for 5 minutes until the mixture becomes a bit frothy.

In a large bowl add the flour and stir in the yeast mixture. Whilst stirring, add the milk, egg and melted butter. Mix with your hands until a VERY sticky dough forms.

Knead the dough for about ten minutes or until smooth and elastic. This is when we like to play Spider-Man as the stickiness level is intense!

Add the sultanas, cinnamon and orange zest. Give a much quicker knead to incorporate these into the dough. Plop into the bowl and cover with a tea towel.

Pop in a warm place for an hour (near a radiator or a warm windowsil are my go-to choices) or until doubled in size. In the meantime line 2 baking sheets with baking paper .

Separate the dough into 8-10 even sized balls and pop onto the baking sheets giving plenty of space in between. Loosely cover with a greased sheet of film and leave in a warm place again for about half an hour or double the size.

Preheat the oven to 200°C Gas Mark 8.

Mix the plain flour and water together to make a thick paste. Pipe or drizzle the paste over the buns to create a cross.

Bake for 15-20 minutes or until raised and golden.

Spoon the apricot jam into a microwave safe bowl or mug and heat for 15-30 seconds or until runny.

Whilst still warm from the oven, gently brush the tops of the buns with the jam.

Enjoy warm with butter or slice and toast for a special breakfast 😀

For Chocolate Orange buns

Make the dough as per the above but at the point of adding the fruit add the zest of 1 orange and 100g chocolate chips or chunks.

Proof and bake as above and glaze with a little maple syrup.

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Banoffee Crêpe Cake

As usual I’ve decided to publish a topical blog very last minute. It’s Shrove Tuesday in the UK this week aka Pancake Day.

Historically Shrove Tueday is when households would use up the last of their rich foods such as eggs and butter before the lental fast. These days it’s a marker for the start of lent and of course a day for pancakes. As I’m keen to share this messy child-friendly recipe I won’t waffle on anymore…

There’s a few stages to this recipe but you don’t need any special equipment, just patience and eager kid helpers.

Ingredients

For the pancakes

  • 200g Plain Flour
  • 4 eggs
  • 600ml whole milk

For the toffee sauce

  • 300ml double cream
  • 90g butter
  • 100g soft brown sugar

For the Chocolate ganache

  • 150g plain chocolate
  • 50g milk chocolate
  • 300ml double cream

Also required

  • 5 large bananas
  • Spray oil or low calorie cooking spray

To decorate (optional)

  • 50g melted white chocolate
  • Sprinkles

The pancake batter recipe above comfortably makes 12 pancakes but don’t worry if a few go awry. Ideally you’ll have at least 10 pancakes (crepes) in your finished cake.

In a large bowl, whisk all the pancake ingredients together until you have a smooth and runny batter.

Heat a small amount of oil or low calorie cooking spray in a non-stick frying pan until hot.

Add half a ladleful of batter and swirl around to coat the base of the frying pan.

Once the top is fully set, flip over using a spatula- or if your feeling fancy- give a good airborne toss.

After 15 seconds or so it should be cooked through. Transfer to a cold plate and repeat with another half ladle of batter until all is used.

While your pancakes are cooling prepare your filling.

In a saucepan combine all the toffee sauce ingredients and bring to a gentle boil over a low heat. Allow to bubble for 3- 5 minutes or until it just starts to deepen in colour- then remove from the heat.

(If you like a salted caramel taste add a teaspoon of sea salt to your sauce and stir through)

As this is a bit of a grown up job, get your little ones chopping the bananas in the meantime. This is an excellent job for younger children as they can develop knife and chopping skills while safely using a blunt knife.

When your toffee sauce has cooled to room temperature it’s stacking time!

Place your first pancake face down on a wire rack and spread a thin layer of toffee sauce over the surface. Add some well spaced slices of chopped banana (apx 8-10 pieces) and top with another pancake.

Repeat the process until all the pancakes are used- to create a dome shape- gradually place your banana slices further from the edge of the pancakes for the last 3 layers.

Ensure that there are no toppings on your final pancake. Pop the stack into the fridge while you make the Chocolate ganache.

To make the ganache:

Break up the milk and dark chocolate and pop into a large bowl.

Pour the cream into a microwave safe jug and heat to boiling point (between 1-2 minutes in the microwave)

Pour the boiling hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the Chocolate has all melted into a smooth mixture.

Allow to sit until the mixture is just warm to touch.

Keeping on the wire rack- remove the pancake stack from the fridge and place onto a baking tray. Pour the ganache over the pancake stack to completely cover. You should have ample ganache and any run off that gathers in the baking tray can be poured into a jug and kept in the fridge for up to 3 days (makes a brilliant topping for cupcakes).

Decorate the cake with sprinkles and white chocolate.

Chill until ready to serve.

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Mini Quiche Cups

I’m trying to teach my girls the art of compromise. This week my eldest turned the laundry basket on its side and wanted to play in it – I didn’t think that was a good idea (it’s on its last legs and this was certain to finish it off). After asking “please get out of the basket” aka the bat-cave that was now her ‘forever home’, her little sister wanted to climb in. Chaos shortly ensued, which resulted in me declaring, “if you don’t share the basket it’s going back upstairs”, thus reaching a compromise… I’d compromised from ‘please get out’ to ‘share’ and my eldest had comprised from not listening to me to not listening to me and having less room in the Bat cave.

OK so this isn’t classic compromise – but can I please draw attention to my empty laundry basket 🙋

Quiche is very much where we actually compromised this week. The kids wanted more cake: I’m calling it a moral victory…

You will need a muffin tray (6 or 12 is fine) lightly greased.

Ingredients

For the pastry

  • 300g plain flour
  • 150g butter or margarine
  • 50-70ml cold water
  • Big pinch of salt

For the filling

  • 2 large eggs
  • 200ml milk
  • 150g grated mature chedder
  • 2 chopped spring (green) onions
  • 10 finely chopped slices water thin ham (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170°C gas mark 4.

Be prepared for flour everywhere (don’t bother trying to fight it; it’s inevitable).

In your largest bowl combine the flour, salt and margarine/butter, and rub together until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the water gradually, stirring as you go until you can bring the mixture to a firm dough.

Scatter yet more flour onto the worktop and pop your dough on top.

Roll out to 1cm thickness and cut large circles out using a cutter or very wide brimmed mug (I’ve got a 16oz mug which is perfect for this but use what you have).

Place the rounds of pastry into the muffin tray holes – depending on how much raw pastry your kids have eaten you will have enough for at least 6 quiches.

If you have baking beans and want to blind bake your pastry to crisp it up, now is the time! Pop your beans in each case and bake for 6-8 minutes. This is baking with kids however so definitely not necessary.

In a jug combine all the ingredients for your filling and mix well.

Pour the mixture into each pastry cup. If you haven’t blind baked cover loosely with a sheet of foil and bake for 15-20 minutes taking the foil off halfway. When the quiches are golden and raised they’re done 😀

Allow to cool slightly in the tin before removing. Brilliant served with a big salad.

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Nutella Cake Balls

We do love a jar of nutella in this house. It’s been the basis for many of our most eloquent recipes such as ‘Chocolate toast’ (nutella on toast), chocolate porridge (nutella in porridge), and the Michelin star worthy ‘chocolate spoon’ (yes – nutella on a spoon).

As much as we love a bit of nutella straight from the jar, I did think it was high time we created a nutella recipe which involved some baking…

We’ve made these as balls using a silicone cake pop mold we got cheap as chips from Amazon Benross Silicone Cake Pop Baking Set, Set of 20, Pink

If you have no mold and no intention of buying one then use a 7″ sandwich tin instead and make one round nutella cake instead 😀

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 100g Nutella
  • 50g butter
  • 1 egg
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 70g self raising flour

To decorate

  • 150g chopped white chocolate
  • Heaped tablespoon nutella
  • 50g chopped milk chocolate

Preheat oven to 190°C Gas Mark 5

Lightly grease half the cake pop mold (You will not need the top half).

In a large bowl mix the nutella, butter and sugar together until smooth.

Crack in the egg and mix well. Then stir in the flour until the mixture is fully combined and only partially eaten by your little chef…

Transfer into the cake pop mould filling each cup just over halfway.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until raised and springy when touched.

Allow to cool before gently removing from the mould.

Trim each half sphere of cake so it’s nice and tidy.

Melt the milk chocolate in a heat proof bowl in the microwave using short bursts of 10 seconds and stirring well in between.

Sandwich 2 half spheres together using a good drizzle of the melted chocolate. Transfer to a wire rack to set.

Melt the white chocolate as above using short bursts in the microwave.

Hold a complete cake ball over the melted white chocolate. Spoon melted chocolate over until completely coated then set aside on a wire rack to set.

Carry on until all 9 cake balls are covered.

Gently heat the heaped tablespoon of nutella until runny (again I lazily popped ours into a mug and microwaved for 15 seconds).

Drizzle over the cake balls and pop into the fridge to set!

Enjoy the hazelnutty chocolatey goodness!

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Garlic and basil Focaccia

Ahhh the joys of messy play. I generally think we incorporate the messy play quota in our regular baking but bread making always takes it to the next level. I’m not particularly tidy (usually a walking mess) and even I have to admit there’s something frustrating in cleaning chunks of dried dough out of your cutlery drawers two days post baking. But this bread is truly delicious and it’s not often the kids will happily chomp down on anything garlicky, basily and mildly unpronoucable by a Welsh 3 year old!

I’m so eager to share this recipe with you that I’m actually writing it up on the floor of my super awake 20 month olds bedroom while she throws dummies over the cot bars towards my head.

You don’t need any special equipment to make bread but a baking tray lined with baking paper is pretty essential.

Ingredients

  • 450g Strong white flour
  • 7g dried yeast
  • Heaped tablespoon runny honey
  • Teaspoon salt plus extra coarse sea salt
  • 50ml garlic infused olive oil plus 2 extra tablespoons for drizzling
  • Tablespoon dried basil
  • 300ml warm water

(If decorating also prep 4 spring onions, cherry tomatoes, mini peppers or whatever veg you fancy).

In a jug, combine the water, yeast and honey, and give a good stir.

In a large bowl, mix the flour and salt- then pour in the olive oil and yeasty water mix.

Give this a good mix until you have a very sticky dough (if you have a stand mixer with a dough hook feel free to use thisto combine the ingredients)

Once you have your dough the messy fun really begins… Scatter plenty of flour on your kitchen surface and knead- stretch- play with the dough for a good 10 minutes or until very elastic. This is pretty close to liquid dough so expect all the mess!

This takes time but it’s 100% necessary for a perfect Focaccia.

Pop into an oiled bowl and cover with a damp tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size.

Ruin your already ransacked kitchen by adding yet more flour to your worktop. Gently roll/ stretch into a rectangle- being careful not to take much air out of the dough.

Pop onto the baking tray and loosely cover again with the damp tea towel.

Preheat the oven to 200°c Gas Mark 6

Leave to sit for another 30 minutes or until it’s puffed back up to doubled size again.

With your fingers, poke dents throughout the surface of the bread. Gently rub the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle with the sea salt and basil.

If your decorating with veggies now is also the time to arrange your topping.

Bake for 30 minutes or until completely golden.

Beautiful served warm with a nice saucy pasta!

In case you were wondering; yes I’m still on the floor and yes the baby’s still awake #mumlife.

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Rich & Posh Triple Chocolate Cake

When we fancy whipping up a chocolate cake or cupcake we’ll usually use our standard chocolate cake recipe.

But as is so often the case, I needed something stronger after a long week of no sleep and toddlers who refuse to let you put their shoes on when you really need to leave the house (then scream the car down when you dare to take them out without shoes*)

If a more grown-up chocolate cake is needed, this one is perfect! Almost Torte-like in texture, it’s perfect for an occasion or a pudding for a big family lunch.

You will need a 9″ cake tin lined with baking paper.

Ingredients

For the cake

  • 200g chopped dark chocolate
  • 200g butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 70g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds

For the white chocolate ganache

  • 150g white chocolate
  • 150ml double cream

To decorate

  • 150g sliced strawberries (optional)
  • 50g milk chocolate

Preheat the oven to 180°C gas Mark 4.

The first part is a grown up job but as it involves plenty of chocolate you shouldn’t worry about kiddies loosing interest;

Set a small pan of simmering water on the hob and pop a bowl on top -add the dark chocolate and butter and stir until melted – remove from the heat while you carry on with the next bit.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar until thick and frothy (approx 5 minutes). My 3 year old loves a whisk and is confident with an electric hand whisk but if your baking with very little ones this may be a grown up job.

We never normally use a stand mixer but had my mother’s on loan this weekend and what a revelation! Almost felt like cheating; if you have one let the mixer whisk the eggs while you melt the chocolate.

Stir the egg mixture into the melted chocolate with a metal spoon until just combined then gently add the flour and almonds.

Pour into the cake tin and bake for 30 minutes or until springy when touched in the centre.

While the cake is baking you can crack on with the ganache.

Break up the white chocolate (don’t worry if your little chef eats a lot of chocolate during this process. I’ve found it unavoidable) and pop into a microwave safe bowl. Melt in the microwave using short bursts of 10 seconds and stirring in between.

Once melted stir in the double cream until well combined and pop in the fridge to chill.

When the cake is cool gently remove from the tin and peel off the baking paper.

Top with the white chocolate ganache and sliced stawberrys.

Melt the milk chocolate by popping into a microwave safe bowl and using short bursts of 10 seconds as you did with the white chocolate.

Drizzle over the top of the cake and you’re good to go!

*we didn’t need to leave the car so I’m confident shoes weren’t actually necessary.