Bloody Fingers, Bats and Teeth….

Fingers

 

Halloween is approaching once again. It was not until I had children that I really started enjoying this celebration – and really – I only enjoy it because I get to cook funny looking things!

Last year I wrote a bit about the history of Halloween as well as posting quite a few recipes; a refresher below:

……I have learned that Halloween has ancient origins linked to the Celtic festival of Samhain. The name of the festival is derived from Old Irish which roughly translates to “summer’s end”. It served to celebrate the end of a good season of harvest of apples, pumpkins, spices and cider as well as a setting for supernatural encounters. The original Celtic holiday occurred on November 1, not October 31, and was one of the most important holidays for Celtic people, who believed that the spirits of those who had died over the course of the year would mingle with the living before traveling on to the afterlife. Festivals and celebrations were meant to aid the good souls on their way, and keep bad spirits from doing harm to the living.

Since that time, however, the holiday has grown and changed – fuelled largely by horror films such as Frankenstein and Dracula.

The carving of pumpkins, which is my absolute favourite part of Halloween, stems from Scotland and Ireland where they used to carve turnips as a symbol of remembering souls held in punishment. Immigrants to North America later discovered, and used, the pumpkin which was much larger and therefore easier to carve. Today it is used to open your home to little “trick or treaters” – if you leave a lit pumpkin on your front step they know they are welcome!

Chocolate Spiders

Sweet Pumpkin Loaf

Bat biscuits

Ghost Cupcakes

This year we have made a few different bits – the favourite ones (according to the children) were Bats, Fingers and Teeth! The recipes will follow below!

I hope you have a smashing Halloween and Half Term holiday and enjoy the time with your little ones.

Bloody Fingers (adapted from Sainsbury’s Magazine)

This recipe will make 24 fingers

375g short crust pastry

Tomato puree – about 1 tbsp

24 blanched almonds

1 beaten egg or some cream

Grated parmesan – 1 tbsp full will do

  • Pre-heat your oven to 190C
  • Cut the short crust pastry into three rectangles; then cut each rectangle into eight fingers
  • Roll each pastry piece into the shape of a finger – do not fold the dough or roll it out as this will create “splitting” fingers! I.e. the fingers will open up when cooking.
  • Round the finger tips and use a sharp knife to score gentle lines across the middle for knuckles
  • Press your thumb into the top of each finger to make an indentation for the fingernails
  • Dot the tomato puree onto each indentation and press and almond onto each
  • Place all the fingers on a lined baking sheet
  • Brush with either beaten egg or cream
  • Sprinkle parmesan on top
  • Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes – or until golden
  • Let them cool and enjoy!
  • They are great served with hummus, guacamole, pesto or tomato salsa

Marshmallow Bats

Simple and cute – makes 12 (ish)!

250g plain chocolate

12 marshmallows

Baking sheet and pencil

  • Melt 250g of dark chocolate (or milk chocolate if you prefer) in a bowl over simmering water. Do not let the chocolate overheat or it will go crumbly in texture
  • On a baking parchment sheet, draw the bat wings with a pencil (Google image them and print off a picture to trace if you are not the creative type) ensuring you link the wings with a circle (big enough for a marshmallow
  • Ensure the sheet is placed on a moveable surface as the bats will need to go in the fridge once made
  • Turn over the baking parchment – you should see the trace
  • Once the chocolate has melted fully remove it from the heat and let it cool down – this will probably take 10-15 minutes
  • Using a spoon (or piping bag if you prefer) fill the wings and centre “blob” on the parchment with chocolate. make sure you make a relatively thick coating to ensure the bat wings do not break when you need to remove them later
  • Dip your marshmallows in the chocolate and place one marshmallow, as the bat’s body, on the centre blob of every wing set
  • Continue until you have finished the chocolate and marshmallows
  • Place the bats in the fridge for at least 30 minutes
  • Once completely dry, decorate the face with icing pens and sprinkles (for eyes)

Bat

Wobbly Teeth – surprisingly tasty (Sainsbury’s magazine)

Apples

Thick honey (or toffee sauce)

Mini marshmallows

  • Slice your apples into wedges – making the bottom wedges very flat to allow them to sit easily on a platter or plate
  • Put some thick honey (or toffee sauce) on each wedge
  • Place the mini marshmallows on the flat wedge, into the honey, and lay an apple wedge on top
  • Enjoy!

Teeth

 

Soft nougat brioche on a snow filled day!

Soft interior; crunchy exterior

Soft interior; crunchy exterior

The snow is bucketing it down and strong gusts of wind make it look like we are somewhere in the Arctic – not in a small British town west of London! It is wonderful.

I am guessing the school will text message around noon to say it will close at 1pm and have decided that I want to take full advantage of this! When the children come it will be film, hot chocolate and sweet roll time…Can’t wait!

It is a simple dough and really easy to make; please do not let the word yeast put you off!

The dough for these soft sweet rolls is already made (a bit keen) and the nougat filling is sat next to me on the counter – a few bites already missing….

Sweet Dough Brioche (makes around 12)

200ml milk

1.5 tbs butter

3 tbs sugar

25g fresh yeast (or 1.5 sachets dry)

1 tsp ground cardamom (you can substitute this for cinnamon)

pinch of salt

425g flour

Nougat – lots or 150g (you can substitute with chocolate)

  • In a small saucepan add milk, butter, sugar and yeast and turn on low heat. You want to make the milk luke warm in order that the butter melts and the sugar dissolved – however not too hot as this will damage the yeast’s ability to rise properly
  • Give all the ingredients a good stir with a wooden spoon and turn off the heat once the butter is half way melted and the sugar seems dissolved
  • Pour the mixture into a large bowl
  • In a separate bowl add the flour, salt and cardamom.
  • Pour the flour mixture into the milk and combine with either your hands or a wooden spoon. Save a little of the flour until you are sure you will need it all
  • If it is too sticky and does not form a soft dough ball – add a little extra flour. Conversely, add a little warm milk if you find you have added too much flour and it is too dry
  • Once combined, knead for 5 minutes and return to the bowl – covered with a clean tea towel
  • Place the dough ball close to a good heat source (over a radiator, next to tumble dryer….) or in a warm room
  • Leave the dough until it has doubled in size – takes between 30 minutes and 1 hour depending on what yeast you used and how warm your room is
  • Once you are happy with the dough, knead it a bit and flatten it out on a floured surface
  • Place the nougat on the dough – do not be stingy!
  • Close the dough around the nougat and, using your hands, create little dough balls (sort of like rolling a snow ball)
  • Place the finished brioche on a lined baking tray and leave under a tea towel to rise for 30 minutes
  • Just before placing in the pre-heated oven, brush the brioche with milk
  • Bake in the oven for 12 minutes at 225C – they will be lovely and brown when done (and tapping them underneath should sound hollow)
  • Once out of the oven brush with melted butter – this gives a nice, subtle salty taste to the brioche
  • At this point you can sprinkle some sugar on top too….(go on, if you are going to be naughty you may as well go for it).
  • Enjoy!

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A Tea and Chocolate Lovers Hot Cross Buns

“Hot cross buns, hot cross buns, one a penny, two a penny….”

In Denmark we don’t serve hot cross buns, and before I moved to the UK and had children I had therefore never tasted one. I will never forget though, the first time I smelt one being toasted….talk about a wakening of the senses! Hot spices and bread – yum! However, the currants….not for me. Really. Not good.

So I figured there must be a way to combine my love of spices, particularly cardamom and cinnamon, with my biggest love of all – chocolate – to create a gloriously tasting twist of a hot cross bun! It worked – recipe below. Happy days!

We made them this morning and took them with us to a friend’s house – it was a well received tray!

A bit of history before you crack on (thanks to Wikipedia):

In many historically Christian countries, these buns are eaten hot or toasted on Good Friday, with the cross standing as a symbol of the Crucifixion. It is believed that buns marked with a cross were eaten by Saxons in honour of the goddess Eostre with the cross thought to have symbolised the four quarters of the moon.

According to cookery writer Elizabeth David, Protestant English monarchs saw the buns as a dangerous hold-over of Catholic belief in England, being baked from the dough used in making the communion wafer. Protestant England attempted to ban the sale of the buns by bakers but they were too popular, and instead Elizabeth I passed a law permitting bakeries to sell them, but only at Easter and Christmas.

Choc Chip Hot Cross Buns (makes about 30 small buns)

330ml milk, warmed
1 tea bag – pg tips, earl grey – your choice!
20g fresh yeast (or 1 sachet dried)
75g caster sugar
600g plain flour (plus extra for kneading)
1 tsp all spice
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp salt
80g butter
1 egg
100g dark chocolate chips
Good handful raisins
 

For the Cross

 
40g plain flour
2 tsp caster sugar
Enough water to make a thick, smooth paste (3-5 tbsp)

 

For the Glaze

 
1 tbsp water
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp powdered gelatine (can be omitted but then boil the mixture slightly longer to thicken naturally)
 
  • Add milk and tea bag to a saucepan and warm until luke warm then take off heat
  • Remove the tea bag and whisk in the yeast and sugar and combine until dissolved
  • Sift flour, spices and salt into a separate bowl, throw in the butter and chop into it with a knife until you have a crumble like texture
  • Pour in the lukewarm milk and add the egg – stir to make a soft dough
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and give it a good kneading – add the raisins and chocolate chips (watch the little helpers here….almost all of my raisins and chocolate ended up in tummies not the buns!)
  • Return to the bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave somewhere warm to rise for about an hour
  • Tip out of the bowl once risen and give another knead. Cut the dough into small pieces and shape into balls
  • Lay these in whichever shape you like – traditionally a round one – on a lined baking tray
  • Leave the balls to rise for about 15 minutes – pre-heat oven to 200C
  • To make the “cross” combine flour, sugar and water and stir in the water to make a smooth paste. Put this into a piping bag (or a plastic bag with a small hole cut in a corner) and pipe your crosses onto the buns
  • Bake them in the oven for 15 minutes
  • To make the glaze – combine sugar, water and gelatine in a saucepan and simmer for a few minutes until dissolved – do not boil
  • Remove your finished buns from the oven, place on a wire rack and brush the glaze over the top
  • ENJOY!!!!! (Your house will smell divine too…)

 Cheeky Chap – eating my raisins! 

Pancake Day #3 – Chocolate on Chocolate Pancake Cake!

This is THE perfect pudding for Shrove Tuesday…(in two days in case you had forgotten!) Our children have the day planned…

American Pancakes for breakfast, a crepe with ham and cheese in the lunch box and then spinach layers for dinner with this recipe here for dessert!! It will be death by pancakes but fun!! I will be making pancakes all day it looks like! 🙂

This one is inspired by a food buzz article I read by a lady called Angie Tee – I have adapted her recipe slightly as I do not like to put butter and too much sugar in my pancakes – but the idea and composition are all hers!

It is like making a layer cake – chocolate crepes, then nutella, then banana….until there is no more and you have a tower to feast on! Time consuming yes, worth it? Oh yes! Enjoy!

This makes a large portion!!!!! The pictures show the cake I made – and I still had about 12 pancakes left over.

300g flour
7 tbsp cocoa powder
2 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3 cups of milk (equivalent to about 750ml) 
3 eggs
4 tbsp veg oil
8 tbsp beer – this not only adds a bit of yeast to the batter but also crispness – can be omitted though
1 jar of Nutella – warmed
3-4 bananas
 
  • Combine flour, cocoa, sugar and salt in a bowl
  • In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, beer and vegetable oil
  • Pour the liquids into the dry ingedients and whisk until well combined
  • Pour the batter into a jug (easier for making the pancakes) and leave to set for 15ish minutes – you can prepare the batter the day before and leave, cling filmed, in the fridge over night
  • When ready to make your pancakes, gently whisk the batter – it should pour easily and have a cream like consistency (add a bit of milk if too thick)
  • Heat and rub a non stick pan with a tiny bit of vegetable oil
  • Pour the batter onto the pan and swirl it around to coat evenly. Once the sides start to turn upwards, flip your pancake and cook the other side
  • Lay pancakes on a plate and keep warm in an oven while you finish flipping the rest of the pancakes
  • Heat the nutella in a bowl of hot water – or microwave quickly if you have one (it is easier to spread when warm)
  • Slice your bananas thinly…
  • Layer….and enjoy…

How to enjoy!

Chocolate Umbrellas

Chocolate Umbrellas…Doesn’t that sound lovely? Well they are! And cute!

The children were asking what activity we were doing today as they have gotten used to something happening in the kitchen most days during the holidays…I rummaged through my shelves and luckily found some lovely chocolate and some wooden sticks! That really is all you need for this one – oh and something to pour the chocolate into!

Initially I wanted shot glasses but we don’t own any proper ones (horror, I know!) – I liked the thought of chocolate shots – but instead I found some mini cup-cake cases and we ended up with umbrellas!

Don’t think I need to mention that the children loved them – the pictures speak for themselves – another bonus is the fact that I used 70% dark chocolate = rich! They didn’t beg for a second cup! Result!

  • Melt about 200g dark chocolate in heat proof bowl over simmering water – gently!!
  • Pour into case of your choice! Cup cake cases, shot glasses, egg cups, ice-cube trays – anything will do to be honest
  • Let cool for a few minutes in the fridge – then place wooden sticks in the middle
  • Leave in fridge for about an hour – maybe longer if large!
  • If using silicone cup cake cases as I did simply peel off. If using anything glass or ceramic, heat slightly with your hands and gently slide out chocolate shape
  • Give away as a gift in a pretty bag or serve with a steaming hot cup of milk on a cold day…feel the warmth and enjoy the silence!

Homemade Peppermint Marshmallows

Are you a fan of luscious and chocolatey peppermint mocha? Do you like hot chocolate to be rich and creamy – with marshmallows melting on top? I DO!

Mint and chocolate go hand in hand, specially at Christmas time, and marshmallows definitely go hand in hand with hot chocolate..so what better than peppermint marshmallows? I craved them…so I made it the children’s Advent activity to feel less guilty! 🙂 Sharing is caring, right?

Very easy to make but patience is needed….You must whip/beat the mixture for a good 20 minutes. This first batch..well…I didn’t wait – the flavour was stunning and the way they melted in hot chocolate divine – so creamy – but they did not have the right marshmallow texture.

So, second time around I switched from food processor to hand-held mixer half way through as I smelt burning and the mixer felt very warm…didn’t want to ruin any appliances…did mix for a full 20 minutes though…and they are stunning! The children particularly enjoyed licking spoons for this one…the batter is almost too good to cook!

These are really lovely wrapped up in clear bags, with ribbon, as a Christmas treat or gift.

Peppermint Marshmallows (adapted from Annie Rigg recipe)

Handful of peppermint sweets – your choice
2 tbsp icing sugar
2 tbsp cornflour
6 tbsp cold water
2 tbsp powdered gelatine
400g granulated sugar
250 ml water
50g golden syrup
2 large egg whites
pinch of salt
1 tsp peppermint flavouring – optional and only if you like them really strongly flavoured
green food colouring (if wanted)
 
  • Preparation is everything – especially if you are making this with the children! Set out everything, weighed, in little bowls and let them tip ingredients in and stir etc
  • Mix icing sugar and cornflour in a bowl
  • Grease a square baking tin – or any shape to be honest – square just makes the marshmallows more symmetrical. It should be at least 4-5cm deep and not bigger than 23cm wide. Dust the tin with the cornflour and icing sugar mixture making sure to keep any leftover mixture
  • Place 6 tbsp cold water in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatine into it – set aside
  • Place 250ml water and the sugar and syrup in a saucepan (looks cool!) and place over medium heat – stir to dissolve sugar

  • Bring mixture to the boil and cook for about 10-15 minutes – ideally the sugar mixture should come in at 120C on a sugar thermometre – but if you do not have one (I do not!) – drip some of it into a glass of water; it will be ready when it creates a hard ball rather than dissolving
  • While this is cooking, bash up your peppermints by placing them in a freezer bag and hitting them with something hard! Once crushed – put aside for later

  • Remove from the heat and add the now spongy gelatine – stir thoroughly to combine and dissolve the gelatine
  • Whisk the egg whites in a bowl with a pinch of salt (helps to stiffen them) – make sure you can turn the bowl upside down without the egg whites moving! That is your sign that they are whipped enough
  • While stirring, add the peppermint flavouring if you are using this, the crushed peppermints and the hot syrup in a steady stream. Keep stirring for 20 minutes or so – what you want is for the mixture to be really thick and creamy. And I mean VERY thick…no cheating or you will have very “wet” marshmallows!
  • Pour half the mixture into the prepared tin – add food colouring to the other half if you want them to look a bit green – and then add the coloured mixture on top of the white one

These are my second batch – made them pink as my daughter requested it! 🙂

  • Leave the tin, uncovered (FAR away from your children who by now have realised this is tasty stuff…), over night
  • When you are ready, dust a work surface with the cornflour/icing sugar mixture and tip the marshmallows out. You may need to pull a little at it to get them out and the bottom will be a little sticky. All good.

  • With a sharp knife – cut to shape!

Made mini marshmallows for the children

If you do not like peppermint – just add vanilla essence and leave out the peppermint sweets and flavour!

You can also make shapes – simply use a spoon and dollop the marshmallow mixture onto greaseproof paper. A bit tricky to get off the paper but do-able! Having learnt-by-doing, trick to this is to make a ginger bread biscuit or other biscuit in the shape you would want, and then dollop the mixture on top. Marshmallow biscuits! Yum!

The best though, and we all agreed, is this:

Make yourself a large cup of real hot chocolate and throw in these peppermint marshmallows! As they are fresh…the way they melt is like nothing I have ever tried. Heaven in a cup!

Perfectly melted!