home making

Therapeutic baking. The other day I stood in the little front garden of this new house and pulled out the weeds that were choking the crocuses and dwarf narcissi. The smell of fresh earth hit me and I remembered how good gardening is for the soul. Today I listened to Radio 4 and baked and it was good.

Cupcakes ready to go.

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Blueberry muffins (recipe below, they’re really easy and a million times nicer than the horrible oily ones you get in shops).

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Not sure how long this lot will last. But they look pretty with their lilac and pale pistachio coloured icing. Someone seems to have eaten all the sprinkly things from my baking cupboard, though. Several someones, I suspect.

Photos above all taken with iPhone because my camera is dead. A new one is stupendously expensive. It might be fixable, but it looks like the cost of fixing it might be more than my battered old Canon is worth. Sob.

Blueberry Muffins

Preheat oven to 190c, 375F or Gas 5.

You need 300g plain flour
1tsp baking powder
0.5 tsp bicarb of soda
a pinch of salt
2 beaten eggs
175g light brown sugar
250ml natural yogurt (or buttermilk would work, and milk at a push but reduce the quantity a bit)
125ml melted butter
1tsp vanilla extract
175g blueberries

Put the flour, baking powder, bicarb and salt in a biggish bowl
Mix the melted butter, eggs, yogurt, sugar and vanilla in another bowl
Mix the two together, adding the blueberries, and just fold it together a bit (lumpy and bits of flour is fine, undermixing is worse than overmixing these)
Divide them into 12 muffin cups and bake for about 12 minutes.

I can’t remember where I originally found this recipe but I’ve been using it for so long I know the quantities off by heart. You can also do banana (a couple of over-ripe bananas mashed) or chocolate chip (big handful and a mouthful for the cook) or (yum) raspberry and white chocolate chips.

weekend bits and bobs

Pattern by Orla Kiely

This book arrived in the post this morning – Pattern, by Orla Kiely. It’s gorgeous, inside and out. I’ve been dying to get my hands on it and it is just as beautiful as I’d hoped. I’ve earmarked a sunny corner in the garden for later, and I’m going to sit down with a jug of iced tea (recipe here) and daydream about the look of our next house.

I’m thinking lots of bold prints and maybe some 1950s style wallpaper somewhere – I might have to take a few rolls of this one from the Little Greene Paint Company with me. I love it.

Better go and get cleaning – we’ve got viewings on the house even though it’s half term and most people are in holiday mode, so fingers crossed. Have a lovely weekend!

chocolate brownies – the recipe

Yesterday was a 1970s sort of day. Scrambled eggs on toast for breakfast, football in the garden, a couple of hours at Sunday school and making snails (and lots of other creatures) with Plasticine. Oh, and chocolate brownies.

So for those of you who asked after my Silent Sunday post of yesterday, here’s the rest of the photos – and the recipe for chocolate brownies (in family-of-six quantities):

(Any recipe that starts with a whole crushed bar of 85% cocoa solids chocolate is good in my eyes.)

I started off with a Nigella recipe a while back, but I’m not very good at sticking to recipes, so this owes something to the domestic goddess, but is a variation on her theme.

You need:
225g unsalted butter
450g light muscovado sugar
100g cocoa powder
1.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
6 eggs, beaten
1.5 tsp vanilla extract
225g of chocolate – I use a bar, and then I also add a couple of generous handfuls of chocolate chips. Not measured, not exact. Sometimes instead I add a bar of white chocolate. Beat the chocolate with a rolling pin (very therapeutic, that bit)
200g chopped walnuts. Or not.

You need a brownie tin lined with tin foil – this quantity fills mine, which is a deep 32cm x 20cm.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees, or 170 if you have a fan oven. Or gas mark 5.

Sift the flour, cocoa powder and bicarb into a large bowl.
Melt the butter, pour in the sugar and stir it until it’s blended, then pour it all onto the dry ingredients.
Stir it up, add the beaten egg and vanilla, mix again – you want a smoothish mixture.
Plonk in the chocolate (trying to avoid small chocolate-stealers) and chopped nuts, if you’re adding them.

Mix a bit (with obligatory test of mixture – yum)
Splodge it into the tin, spreading it out to cover the base.

Put in oven for 25-ish minutes, no more. Check after 20. Meanwhile, lick the bowl.

After 20 minutes, check the brownies. They should be set on top but wobbly to the touch. They might need another five minutes. It’s a bit of an inexact science – overcook them and they won’t be all gooey on the inside, but they’ll still be lovely – just a bit more cakey.

Let them cool for ten minutes, then cut them into squares.

chocolate brownies

Makes 32. Or 16. Or 8, if you’re a giant who likes chocolate brownies.

PS – My friend Karin over at Cafe Bebe is just embarking on a gluten free lifestyle and she’ll be baking GF brownies later this week. Pop over for a visit!