As those who know me on Facebook and Instagram will be aware, I am leaving my job after almost 14 years. I have worked in a number of different roles for the same company but it finally feels like it is time to move on and try something new. So in a month from now I will be starting over. Yikes! When I announced to my team a few weeks ago that I was leaving, their biggest concern seemed to be who was going to feed them. I bake a lot for work. To make them feel better I agreed to bring something in weekly… and to take requests. I have been delving into my old faithful recipes but someone requested a carrot cake recently. I do have a carrot cake recipe but it’s a layer cake and transporting a layer cake across multiple train journeys at rush hour is not easy. Instead I decided to go for a tray bake. It was very popular and I will definitely be making it again.
When I was a child growing up my mum always made our birthday cakes. She’s extremely creative and they were really elaborate affairs. There were trains, tractors, princesses, umbrellas, monsters… my brother even had one based on the band U2. I am nowhere near as skilled or patient as my mum is but I really wanted to make Little O’s birthday cake. With some help from Pinterest and a recipe from my mum that I adapted, I think I pulled off something passable that pretty much anyone with a couple of hours of spare time could manage. The sponge cake method used here is an oldie but a goodie and makes a really light fluffy cake.
I have made loads of brownies in my life and my go to recipe is always Hummingbird Bakery, but there isn’t always time for all the melting and the long cook time especially when trying to bake around a small human. Plus with all that high content cocoa dark chocolate, they’re really expensive to make. This recipe is quick, easy and a lot cheaper and they are sooo good and sooo gooey. I am definitely making these my new everyday brownies. (Disclaimer: I don’t eat brownies every day and I am not suggesting that you do either…)
Being back at work means a willing audience to try out my baking on. I didn’t do much baking on maternity leave because it’s quite challenging with a little person constantly needing your attention but also because Mr O is not particularly interested in sweet things and with nowhere to take what I have created, I end up eating far too much of it myself… or ending up chucking bits away once they’ve passed their prime. As Easter is around the corner I decided to to some themed baking for my colleagues.
Growing up in South Africa, you wouldn’t think we were very good at wintery food. However in Johannesburg, where I grew up, while the winter days are sunny and warm by Northern European standards, the temperature drops dramatically at night and it can get very chilly. One of my favourite wintery things that my mum used to make was warm baked puddings, always served with lashings of cold custard, which Mr O finds bizarre.
When our friend N (who is also South Afircan), visited a couple of weekends ago I decided to make a classic baked pudding to warm our cockles and he confirmed that cold custard was definitely the way to go. It must be a South African thing.
This pudding is named after some chap called Jan Ellis. I have no idea who he is but it has a subtle spicy, slightly orangey flavour and it took me right back to my childhood.
About a week ago when I was in Tesco buying essentials (nappies, bread, milk), I also came across a packet of salted caramel pretzel tiffin squares. These, of course, also counted as essential so I brought them home for Mr O and I to enjoy and they were glorious. I decided to make a sort of attempt to recreate them and although my version doesn’t have a caramel element they’re still pretty tasty… and very easy.
Since Little O was born I have had a lot less time to bake. It can be tricky enough to put up essential meals without finding the time for any extra bits. However recently he’s a lot more able to play on his own for periods of time or under Mr O’s supervision so when the urge struck me on Sunday I decided to go for it. I picked this recipe because Mr O particularly likes raspberries and coconut and he’s been raving about them ever since.
Over the weekend Mr O and I invited around his best friend, Mr H, Mr H’s brother and their wives and kids to join us for a BBQ in our garden. I asked Mr O what I should make for a dessert and he said key lime pie. I have never made key lime pie and he’s never eaten it but he liked the sound of it so I took to my recipes and found one to make. It turned out to be a great success and even though we had ice lollies for the kids they all wanted to get in on the pie! If you get the chance to make this it’s packed with zesty lime flavours that are lovely and refreshing. It is worth mentioning though that there is a lot of cooling and refrigeration time so if you are going to make this you need to start relatively early the day before you want to eat it.
Crunchies are kind of like the South African equivalent of a flapjack although crunchier (hence the name) and less sweet and sticky. I grew up eating loads of these since they’re eggless and my brother was allergic to eggs as a child so baked treats he could eat were quite limited. I recently found this recipe on Pinterest and decided to make these as a snack since oats is supposed to aid breast milk production. Also they are just yummy!
With only 4 or 5 weeks until Little O makes his appearance and I can technically eat whatever I want I have been starting to fantisise about the list of things I am going to eat immediately post labour. In the meantime I am continuing to experiment with baking things that I can eat safely. My latest successful endeavor was these peanut butter blondies that I adapted from a Peace, Love and Low Carb recipe. They are very low sugar and carb so even if you don’t have GD and are trying to stick to these principles they’d be great for a sweet snack. They are also gluten free!
When I started my virtually no sugar, low carb gestational diabetes diet I thought I was going to get mad sugar cravings and wake up in the night sweating and thinking of cake. That hasn’t happened. Although I sometimes dream of Ben &Jerry’s peanut butter cup ice-cream or wish I could just have a piece of fresh tiger bread, I have mostly been fine with getting to eat pretty much as much cheese as I want. What I have been missing is baking. A lot. Like a whole lot. So I decided to do a little experiment and rework one of my favourite brownie recipes to make it GD friendly… and it worked! Not only are these brownies very low in sugar and carbs but they’re also gluten free and passed the 15/30/45/60 blood sugar test advocated by the gestationaldiabetes.co.uk website. What that means is that I tested my blood sugar every fifteen minutes for an hour after eating one of these (paired with some creme fraiche) and all the readings were below my after food target. (Please note that if you have gestational diabetes or type 2 diabetes and want to try these you should repeat the same test on yourself to ensure you are not missing a spike. Everyone’s tolerance is different).
In a few weeks the team of developers I have been working with for the past six months will move onto a new project and a new Product Owner, which means they will no longer be my crew. I am really sad about this since I have had so much fun working with them. I think they’re quite sad too… mostly because the endless supply of my baking experiments is coming to an end. With this in mind I wasn’t surprised that the last time I asked them to add something to a piece of work they asked me what I was going to make them. These were my latest piece of bribery.
I got this recipe from a lady I worked with years ago. I think it was her mum’s. It’s extremely simple but it makes the most amazing cookies with that perfect cracked texture on the top and a chewy centre. They are amazing with a cup of coffee and have just the right amount of spicy ginger flavour.
Creme Eggs are one of my favourite things about Easter. I mean it’s probably overkill that they’re already in the shops in January considering that Easter is like the last weekend of March but I’m not exactly complaining. If these sweet, gooey treats weren’t enough on their own, it’s become a little bit of a trend to combine them with other things… just to bring the heart attack that much closer… like brownies and OMG these are literally crack like. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Around this time of year tins of Celebrations start to appear around offices all over Britain. For the uninitiated Celebrations combine together mini versions of popular chocolate bars as little candies into a giant tin and once you open it to have to keep eating them until you have a pile of wrappers and you feel sick. It’s a festive tradition. Everyone has their favourite. In my office no one ever wants the Bounty ones, which works out great for me because they’re both Mr O and my favourites so they’re the first to disappear in our house. Bounties have a sweet coconut centres and are covered in either milk or dark chocolate and they are delicious. These cookies come from the ever awesome Jane’s Patisserie under a slightly different moniker but they tasted so much like Bounties to me that I have renamed them Bounty cookies. So if like me, you love the combination of chocolate and coconut I would highly recommend these.
Over the weekend we had some friends around for Sunday lunch and I wanted to make a really exciting dessert. I very recently pinned this amazing looking Salted Caramel cheesecake from the fabulous Jane’s Patisserie and neither myself nor any of our guests were disappointed because it was a knockout. Thanks Jane for once again posting such a stunning recipe!
As much as I love experimenting with flavours, sometimes the most classic things are the best and there really is something very special about a simple vanilla cupcake. Of course when you go classic and simple it is essential to get things just right so finding a good recipe that not only gives you a light and delicious cake but is also really easy is essential. Recently I have been closely following (and drooling) over the posts on Jane’s Patisserie so decided to give her vanilla cupcakes a go. Mine were nowhere near as pretty as hers but the flavour and texture were amazing. Thank you, Jane!
I can’t eat raw apples because of my allergies but I can eat them when they’ve been cooked. I love the flavour of apples so when I volunteered to bring a dessert to a recent dinner party at a friend’s house I decided it was time for some apples. This easy French apple cake is light, moist and absolutely packed with apple flavour. It also keeps well but I would suggest you re-heat it if you’re not eating it fresh out of the oven. Everyone was quite excited by the cake so I didn’t get to take many pictures before it got demolished but I promise it looks more impressive than it is pictured here.
One of the philosophies I have been trying to embody with my recent healthy living kick is to avoid processed food and to cut back on sugar, especially unnecessary added sugar which often appears in processed food. This does mean than grabbing portable, quick food on the go can be a bit of a challenge, especially for breakfast. That’s where these bars come in. They have no added sugar, they’re vegan, they’re wheat-free and they are delicious! They’re also packed with fibre and healthy fats and will give you a great energy boost first thing in the morning or just before a workout.
Since coconut oil became the new big thing in both cooking and health I have been quite keen to try it out for cooking and baking. The one thing that has put me off though is the exorbitant price of a jar in my local supermarket or heath shop. However last week I discovered that the ethnic food section of my local Sainsbury’s now sells coconut oil for £2 a jar. This particular aisle in Sainsbury’s has been one of my top finds. It sells tinned tomatoes that are inexplicably cheaper than the Basics range along with super cheap pulses like chickpeas. With that in mind I bought a jar and used it for this recipe with great results. If your super market doesn’t have a cheap ethnic food aisle and you don’t want to shell out for pricey ingredients you can definitely substitute the coconut oil in these tasty but healthy cookies with melted butter.