Books

March Book Haul!

NataliesLifeTBR07

March has flown by! With moving I didn’t think I’d be able to get any books to talk about, but it’s me so I did.

  1. Empath by S. Usher Evans. Amazon
  2. One Of Us by Tawni O’Dell. Amazon
  3. All The Beautiful Brides by Rita Herron. Amazon
  4. Deceptive Desserts: A Lady’s Guide To Baking Bad! by Christine McConnell. Amazon

My vlog talks about all the lovely books in more detail – and one of the authors, Christine McConnell, actually commented on it and now follows me on YouTube and Twitter! Eeeee! I may have had a major fangirl moment when that happened 😀

Camp NaNoWriMo starts today and I keep going back and forth about whether I want to take part or not. I usually do the normal NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where the challenge is to write 50k words of a manuscript during November, and I enjoy that. Camp NaNo is a little different because you can set a lower goal. So maybe I will have a go – I’ll be writing during April anyway, I might as well set a specific word goal, right? Maybe. I’m so indecisive!

As usual I’ll be taking part in Stacking The Shelves, and The Sunday Post – check out some of the other posts to find great reads 🙂

I purchased these books with my own money, and received no compensation for my honest opinion.
I am an Amazon Associate: they pay me a small commission if you use my link.

Recipes

Berry Muffins

Well this recipe is being posted much later than I had planned! Things have been really busy here and my online time got squashed down to zero for a few weeks. But, better late than never, right? 🙂 These muffins are definitely worth waiting for.

I love Dorset Cereals. They are, however, a bit on the pricey side for my budget right now so I just treat myself to a box every so often. This time though I bought a box with a purpose, because Sainsbury’s had given away a free recipe card for some berry muffins made from Dorset Cereals – the Berries and Cherries muesli.

I tried them out for the Mad Tea Party blog hop last month and wow are they delicious!

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Baking time: 20 minutes
Makes: 12

Ingredients:
200 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
100 g Dorset Cereals Berries & Cherries Muesli
225 ml plain yogurt
1 egg, beaten
90 g light brown soft sugar
75 ml semi-skimmed milk
75 ml vegetable oil
100 g berries, fresh or frozen (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries)

1. Place 12 muffin cases in a muffin tin and preheat the oven to 200°C, fan 180°C, gas 6.

2. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into a large bowl. In a separate bowl, mix the muesli and yogurt together. I will add here, somehow I completely missed out the part with the muesli and yogurt here – I added them separately at the end of step 3 and my muffins still came out fine 🙂

3. Add the egg, sugar, milk and oil to the flour mixture and stir to combine.

4. Stir in the muesli mixture (or just add both in separately like I did!) until just combined, then gently stir in the berries (I used frozen raspberries and blackberries).

5. Divide the mixture into the muffin cases and bake for 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.

6. Leave to cool and then enjoy!

I think when I make them again, and I will make them again, I’ll add about 50 g more frozen berries because as yummy as they were, I think they can handle it 🙂

But, hands down, these were some of the tastiest muffins that I’ve ever had!

This will be my post for this week’s Hearth & Soul Blog Hop 🙂 Be sure to check out the other recipes on there this week and follow my blog for more tasty treats!

Recipes

Gingerbread Loaf Recipe

Chris over at Serendipitous has recently talked about a gingerbread recipe that she’d love to have but is unable to get due to local ladies secretiveness! I have to admit, ginger isn’t a big favourite of mine…in fact I dislike the stuff quite a lot, but I tend to know a good recipe when I see one and this one from Rachel Allen looks just right 🙂

I found the recipe on UKTV food, where Rachel Allen’s recipes from her TV show are shown, but it is also available on her own website if you follow this link: Dark Sticky Gingerbread

For those who don’t want to be clicking any links though, here it is!

Dark Sticky Gingerbread
Cooking time: 50-55 minutes

Ingredients:
60 g (2 1⁄2 oz) butter
75 g (3 oz) golden syrup
50 g (2 oz) molasses or black treacle
110 g (4 oz) plain flour
25 g (1 oz) self-raising flour
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 heaped tsp ground ginger
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
100 g (3 1⁄2 oz) caster sugar
Pinch of salt
120 ml (4fl oz) milk
1 egg, beaten
50 g (2 oz) crystallised ginger, finely chopped

For the syrup:
80 g (3 1⁄2 oz) caster sugar
80 ml (2 3⁄4 fl oz) water
1 tsp finely grated root ginger

For the topping (optional):
200 g (7 oz) icing sugar, sifted
Juice of 1⁄2 lemon

You will need a 13 x 23cm (5 x 9in) loaf tin

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C (325°F), Gas mark 3. Line the loaf tin with parchment paper.

2. Melt the butter, golden syrup and molasses or treacle in a small saucepan over a low heat. Set aside.

3. Sift the flours, bicarbonate of soda, spices and pepper into a large bowl. Stir in the sugar and salt, then add the milk and egg and mix until smooth. Gradually add the melted butter mixture, stirring until well incorporated, then fold in the chopped crystallised ginger. The mixture will be runny.

4. Pour into the prepared loaf tin and bake in the oven for 50-55 minutes or until risen and firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Do not open the oven to test before the bread has cooked for at least 45 minutes. Allow the cake to stand for 10 minutes in the tin before removing to a wire rack to cool.

5. Place all the ingredients for the syrup in a small saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. Prick the hot cake all over with a fine skewer, pour over the syrup and leave to cool completely.

6. If you wish, mix the icing sugar and lemon juice together in a small bowl until thick, then spread carefully over the top of the cake with a palette knife or a table knife, allowing some icing to drip over the edges.

Hope that helps Chris and anyone else looking for a great gingerbread recipe! 🙂

Recipes

Pumpkin Cupcakes With Cream Cheese Frosting

I love baking. It’s something I have a real passion for and love trying out new recipes as much as developing old ones.

Last year Mom bought me The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook which is full of delicious baking delights! One recipe in particular grabbed my attention right away, pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese frosting, but unfortunately pumpkin season had ended so I had to wait until this year to try it out.

The Hummingbird Bakery itself is in London and they do a variety of cupcakes – when I visit London for my visa interview (for moving to where my husband is stationed) I’ll be sure to pop in and gain a few lbs!

They say in the cookbook that they altered quantities of ingredients to make the recipes work for small, home baker, batches. I’m not entirely convinced the quantities are right for these cupcakes – I’ve made them twice now, once at Halloween and again last Sunday, and both times they’ve seemed very dense.

Another odd thing is that if you try to take the cupcakes out of the paper cases on the day you bake them (even after they’ve completely cooled) they won’t come out, they stick in there and you get mess everywhere. But if you leave them until the day after, they come out fine. I’ve never come across that before with cupcakes and am not sure how to combat that – any suggestions? Otherwise, just remember to make the cupcakes the day before you need them instead of on the day.

Pumpkin Cupcakes
Makes: 12
Preheat oven: 170 ° C (325 ° F) Gas 3.

Ingredients:
120 g plain flour
140 g caster sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, plus extra to decorate
a pinch of salt
40 g unsalted butter, at room temperature <—[50 g unsalted butter, at room temperature]
120 ml whole milk <—[120 ml skimmed milk, used both times]
2 eggs
200 g tinned pumpkin puree <—[200 g fresh pumpkin, used both times]

I made a few alterations to the cupcake recipe, I’ve shown those in the ingredients list in italics (and also in the instructions).

1) Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, salt and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on a slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.

[I did stage 1 by hand, first combining the sugar and butter, then adding the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon because our handheld electric whisk didn’t feel up to the job!]

2) Gradually pour in half the milk and beat until well mixed. [I added all of the milk here because it never tells you where to add the other half! So I took a wild stab in the dark and put it all in now.]

3) Add the eggs to the mix and beat well (scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula). Stir in the pumpkin puree [fresh pumpkin] by hand until evenly mixed.

4) Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two-thirds full…

…and bake in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes, or until light golden and the sponge bounces back when touched [I poked mine with a skewer like normal – if it comes out clean then they’re done, if it comes out with cake goo on it then they need longer in the oven].

5) Leave the cupcakes to cool slightly in the tray before turning out onto a wire cooling rack to cool completely.

While they’re cooling, mix up your frosting 🙂

Cream Cheese Frosting
Makes enough for 12 cupcakes

Ingredients:
300 g icing sugar, sifted
50 g unsalted butter, at room temperature
125 g cream cheese, cold

The recipe asks for you to beat the icing sugar and butter together in a mixer or with a handheld whisk, but I find that there is so little butter that you just end up with icing sugar clouds everywhere instead. So what I did is use the back of a spoon to mash the butter and sugar together for a while – the butter is so little in quantity that you won’t have enough to mash all the sugar into. Then add the cream cheese and mash that with a spoon for a while too, to reduce the risk of sugar clouds when you turn on the mixer.

Now use a freestanding mixer or handheld whisk to beat everything together until smooth, light and fluffy. This can take a few minutes but don’t overbeat it because it can become runny instead of the light and fluffy frosting we’re after 🙂

I decided to have a more traditional, rustic, finish with my frosting and used a knife to spread it on instead of a piping bag. If you’re not serving the cupcakes straight away, add the frosting and keep them in tins overnight, but don’t add the sprinkling of cinnamon until you’re ready to serve them. Or you can leave the sprinkle off completely, I did a mix of some with and some without.

Apart from the cupcakes being difficult to remove from the paper cases on the same day as cooking, I enjoyed this recipe. One downside is that you can’t taste the pumpkin (or at least, I couldn’t), they taste just like cinnamon cupcakes really but I love cinnamon anyway!

This will be my blog post for the Hearth And Soul Blog Hop, a recipe hop that happens every Tuesday 🙂

Life

Autumn Warmers – Apple Butter

America has some really great, and fun, food ideas! I honestly don’t know why most of them aren’t also available in the UK, because I think they’d sell really well over here.

My husband is American and in the USAF so when I’ve been on base here (and also in Italy when we lived there) to do some food shopping with him I’ve discovered all sorts of great goodies! The latest discovery I’ve made is Apple Butter. It’s like a very concentrated smooth apple sauce, with spices, that you can use on all sorts of things. The one I have is Musselman’s Apple Butter and is spiced with cinnamon and cloves, which makes it perfect for this time of year!

So far my favourite is to spread some on toasted seeded bread – such a great “Autumn Warmer” 🙂 My Mom likes to spoon some of it over ice cream too, which I’ll try out in the warmer Summer months.

I think it’d be great in baking though and have a few thoughts of things I want to try, such as an apple cake with it either in the batter, or as as a kind of frosting on top (or even sandwiched in the middle), or mixed into an apple frosting for cupcakes, or in apple pies in some way. The possibilities seem endless!

Has anyone tried using it in baking? What did you make and how did it turn out?