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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Pancake Day #2 – Spinach Pancake Layers

For Oma! This is her recipe (although she uses mortadella ham rather than bacon). She prepares it like no other and even at my best I cannot compare when cooking it! When Oma visits she knows what will be requested without asking!

Pancake day approaches with swift steps, yay, and this is a savoury way to include them in your Shrove Tuesday celebrations. Better yet, have the traditional crepes from my last post at breakfast time and these for dinner! 😉

Be prepared to spend a bit of time by your stove though – you need to make the bechamel sauce, spinach sauce,tomato sauce and of course the bacon has to be fried until crisp as well as the pancakes flipped! It is worth it though – and ever so child friendly. Reminds me a bit of a soft spinach lasagna and the sweet flavours of nutmeg and spinach really compliment the salty bacon… Soft and comforting food!

Spinach Pancake Layers

For the pancakes

100g plain flour
50g rye flour
1 egg
375ml milk
2 tbsp vegetable oil
Pinch of salt
 

For the Spinach Sauce

500g frozen chopped spinach 
150ml single cream (milk is also fine just makes it less creamy)
1/2 tsp grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
 
For the Tomato Sauce
 
2 tins of chopped tomatoes 
1 clove of garlic – halved
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
A few basil leaves
 
Bechamel Sauce
 
Big knob of butter – 80g or so
40g plain flour
900ml milk
Salt to taste
 
1 pack of bacon lardons
 
Grated Cheddar Cheese to top the dish with
 

Pancakes

  • Put flours and salt in a bowl
  • In a separate bowl beat together egg and milk until smooth; add the oil
  • Whisk the egg mixture into the flour
  • Pour the batter into a jug and let stand for 10 minutes to collect itself
  • Grease a non stick frying pan with some oil (using a paper tissue works well) and heat
  • While the pan is heating up give the batter a quick stir. If it feels dense add a little bit of milk
  • When pan is hot and ready, pour on a small amount of batter – the first pancake always turns out dreadful – don’t worry about it! Flip the pancakes when the sides start to go golden and fry on the other side for a minute or two
  • Keep flipping your pancakes and place them in a pile on a plate

Spinach Sauce 

  • Defrost spinach by putting it over low heat in a saucepan with the cream (or milk). Stir frequently. When combined to a sauce season with nutmeg and salt and leave

Tomato Sauce 

  • Open your tin of tomatoes and pour into a large, deep, frying pan
  • Place the peeled and halved garlic clove into the tomatoes and simmer over medium heat – stirring frequently as it reduces and thickens
  • Once thick, turn off the heat, add sugar and salt as well as the olive oil and basil leaves –  allow to cool

Bechamel Sauce 

  • In a saucepan gently heat the milk
  • In a separate saucepan melt the butter gently – don’t over-heat it or let it brown, as this will affect the colour and flavour of the sauce. As soon as the butter melts, add the flour and, over a medium heat and using a small wooden spoon, stir quite vigorously to make a paste
  • Begin adding the warm milk a little at a time – again stirring vigorously. As the milk is incorporated, add the next amount and continue incorporating each bit of liquid before you add the next. When about half the milk is in, switch to a whisk and start adding large amounts of milk, always whisking briskly
  • You will soon have a smooth, glossy, creamy sauce – if it is lumpy simply remove from heat and stir a lot – this removes the lumps

Fry the bacon lardons in a frying pan (no oil) and place on a piece of kitchen tissue using a slotted spoon once slightly crisp but not black! Let oils soak into tissue and then remove onto new plate

 
Layering!
  • Pre-heat oven to 225C
  • In a deep oven proof dish, start with a layer of bechamel sauce, then spinach sauce, then pancakes – break them to fit into the dish
  • On top of this you then continue layering – bechamel, spinach, tomatoes and a sprinkle of bacon lardons – finishing off with another layer of pancakes!
  • Keep going until you run out of ingredients! The prettiest finish is with bechamel sauce as the last layer.
  • Sprinkle some grated cheddar cheese on top and pop in oven for 25 minutes at 225C
  • You can easily prepare the dish in the morning or even the evening before and simply put in the oven just before serving. Hope you enjoy it!

Ghost Cupcakes

Soft, lovely cupcakes that can be made anytime! Add a little fondant icing and some icing pens and you have a great Halloween treat! Use brown for reindeer, red for Santa….essentially just use your imagination and they can become anything you want them to be!

100g butter
100 self-raising flour
100g sugar
2 eggs
1tsp vanilla essence
2tbsp cocoa (can be omitted if you want a vanilla cupcake)
  • Cream butter and sugar together till light and fluffy – if you dare let little ones do the whisking
  • Beat in eggs one at a time adding a little flour with each
  • Fold in remaining flour, cocoa and vanilla essence
  • Fill each cupcake case 2/3 full (will rise in oven) – great for little fingers
  • Bake at 180C for about 10 minutes (if fan assisted oven, 8 minutes will do)

Transfer to wire rack to cool. Once cool – you can decide how you want to decorate.

  • If you want to make ghosts – as above – put a bit of jam on the cupcake and cover the cake with a small piece of ready to roll white icing (that you have rolled quite thin and into a circular shape). Add a few dots of black icing for eyes and mouth.
  • Decorate with spider’s web and spider – as below – simply using icing sugar pens

  • Finally, you can make proper icing and add food colouring – see below!

Basic principle for icing is to use double the amount of sieved icing sugar to butter. You then cream butter and add icing sugar gradually. Once soft and combined, add flavourings and colour (vanilla, lemon, orange etc)

For American style icing substitute half the butter for cream cheese!

Play Dough

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So very easy and much better than any commercially bought play dough! Will keep for ever wrapped up in a plastic container.

We make this play dough about twice a year or when the children have playdates and they lack inspiration! The children each pick a colour and I let them knead it until combined. They love playing with it when it is just done – all warm and soft.

1 cup cold water
1 cup plain flour
2tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup salt
1tbsp cooking oil
Food colouring
  • Place all the ingredients in a saucepan and mix – keep heat low
  • Stir constantly to avoid it burning and sticking to the pan
  • When the dough comes away from the sides (takes about 10 minutes) of the pan, turn onto a work surface and knead. Take care as it will be hot.
  • Add food colour of your choice while you are kneading. Easy to make his and hers…

The benefits of making your own play dough are many – cheaper, you know what is in it in case your toddler decides to eat some, children take pride knowing they did it, you can personalise it!

Wrap in cling film and keep in a container/tupperware at room temperature and it will last you for months and months.