Category Archives: Food

Welsh Cakes for St Dwynwen’s Day

pice ar y maen heart shaped Welsh cakes st david saint dwynwenIt’s St Dwynwen’s Day tomorrow  so how better to show some love than by baking someone some Welsh cakes, or pice ar y maen. This recipe makes the best Welsh cakes, it’s a traditional recipe which couldn’t be easier to make but which always goes down a treat in my house. I’ve made some to take into work with me tomorrow- along with a ginger cake which I just fancied trying out- because we’re holding a joint celebration with Burns’ Night.

To make Welsh cakes you need a heavy, flat griddle (I use one which belonged to my great-grandmother) though a bakestone or heavy bottomed frying pan will do the same job.

Ingredients for Traditional Welsh Cakes

  • 225g self-raising flour (or 225g plain with half a tsp of baking powder)
  • 110g butter
  • 85g caster sugar
  • A handful of raisins (more or less according to taste)
  • 1 large egg
  • Milk (in case the mixture needs some help binding)
  • Extra butter for greasing

Method

  1. In a mixing bowl, rub together the flour and fat until you have something that looks like crumbs with no lumps of fat showing then stir in the sugar and raisins. Beat your egg then mix it with the dry ingredients to form dough. At this stage, my dough sometimes isn’t doughy enough, so I add in a tiny bit of milk at a time until I can bind it into a dough that I can roll and work with.

2.  Roll your dough out on a floured surface until it’s about half a centimetre thick and then cut circles out using a cutter. Welsh cakes normally have a frilly edge and though I normally use a cutter which is about  4inches in diameter, but for St Dwynwen’s day I’ve used a heart shaped cutter.

3. When your dough is made and your cakes are cut, grease your griddle and fry each cake for two or three minutes on each side until they are golden brown, though they taste fine if they go a little darker. Flipping a circle is easy, but go very gently with a non traditional shape or they will fall apart.

Storage

I like my cakes pretty much straight off the griddle with a cup of tea while they are still hot and buttery, but they will last a few days in an airtight tin. In university, my housemate’s Mamgu made us enough to fill a 5kg cake tin and we lived off those for weeks. They got a little stale but they were fine washed down with tea!

Welsh cakes with St Dwynwen's Valentine's Day Message

Swirly Cinnamon Rolls

This weekend I have mostly been making cinnamon swirly buns. I’ve had some disasters with making my own bread in the past, but these turned out pretty well.

The key to making these cinnamon buns well is patience. You have to let the yeast become active in gently warmed milk before trying to make the dough. You need to give the dough plenty of time to double in size before rolling out, filling with the sticky, buttery cinnamon and sugar filling, and then once that’s done, you need to let the buns begin to rise again before you attempt baking. This is lazy Sunday baking and takes a few hours, if you want to eat them for breakfast then you need to make them the night before and let the rolled up swirls have their second rise in the fridge.

 

Ingredients for cinnamon swirl buns

For the bun bread you will need

  • 600g strong, white bread flour
  • 250ml gently warmed whole milk
  • 1 tbsp of caster sugar to feed the yeast
  • 1 sachet (7g) of easy dried yeast
  • 2 large/3 medium eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g golden caster sugar
  • 80g melted unsalted butter

For the cinnamon swirls filling you will need:

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla bean paste
  • 50 g soft brown sugar
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • half a teaspoon of flavourless vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
  • 2 tbsp golden caster sugar

How to make your cinnamon swirl buns

  1. Gently warm the milk to just above body temperature and dissolve one table spoon of golden caster sugar in this. It’s critical that this milk isn’t too hot as it will kill the yeast. When you’re happy with the temperature, stir in the sachet of yeast and leave until it’s beginning to bubble slightly (it might look a little lumpy).
  2. Melt the butter over a low heat, you want it to be liquid enough to stir in easily, but not hot enough to kill the yeast when it’s combined with the warm milk.
  3. Combine the dry ingredients (holding back about a cup of the flour) in a bowl and stir thoroughly. When the wet ingredients are prepared, fold into the mixture until your dough forms.
  4. The mixture should be soft but not too sticky. Gradually add the extra cup of flour that you’ve held back from the 600g if your mixture is too wet. When you’re happy with the texture, knead the dough until it’s firm but springy. Put this in a warm place covered with a damp cloth to help it rise, this takes about an hour but will take longer if it’s a cold day or your room is chilly.
  5. Use this time to prepare the filling by mashing all of the filling ingredients together to make a smooth spread. The half teaspoon of oil will make this easier to do and will make it easier to spread on the bread when it is ready.
  6. When the dough has doubled in size, knead it again to knock a lot of the air out before forming it into a sausage shape. Roll it out into a rectangle which is about a third as long as it is wide, about 1.5cm thick.
  7. Spread your filling all over the dough, leaving about an inch border around the edges so that the dough sticks together.
  8. Roll the dough up along the long edge so you have a long thin sausage, and pinch the ends to seal. Using a very sharp knife, cut out rolls which are an inch thick.
  9. Lie these rolls on a greaseproof lined paper baking tray so that the swirl is facing up. I use a tray bake tin for this and they join together like a tear and share.
  10. Allow the bread to rise again for about half an hour, using some of this time to preheat your oven to gas mark 4. Bake at this temperature for 15-20 minutes depending on your oven.
  11. When they’ve cooled slightly, you could glaze with jam or icing. I’ll be honest, I just used a white icing pen for speed after all the waiting for things to rise.

With your arms aching from all the kneading, you’ll have plenty of time to read while everything rises. I finished reading The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers while I was waiting.

Tips

  • Use golden caster sugar for a better colour in the bread but you can use white if that’s all you have.
  • Putting the buns close together in a baking tray helps them keep their swirl and stay moist while they bake.
  • Glazing all over the bun would probably help them keep moist longer, storing in an airtight container also helps.
  • Eat as many as possible on the day of making. They’re still great the next day with a cup of tea but they are a little stodgier then.

Quick, Easy Rocky Road Recipe

I made some Rocky Road/Fridge Cake for work this week (publishing involves a lot of cake) and since people seemed to like it quite a lot I thought I’d share the recipe.

It’s really easy to make, and you can keep it in the fridge for a few days so it’s great If you need to make something in advance. To be honest, it’s pretty much just fat and sugar, so it would probably last a really long time if you could stop yourself eating it.

200g rich tea biscuits

125g butter

3 tablespoons of golden syrup

200g dark chocolate

100g milk chocolate

100g mini marshmallows

  1. Bash up the rich tea biscuits in a clear sandwich bag until you fairly equal parts of biscuit dust (crumbs, I suppose…) and small pieces of biscuit. I use a rolling-pin, which I find quite therapeutic, but if you want to be super bookish then I guess you could smash up the rich tea biscuits with a hard back book. When you have them as you like them, pop them in a big mixing bowl to wait for the wet ingredients.
  2. Melt the butter into a pan over a very low heat, and when it is all liquid (or near enough) add in the golden syrup and stir over the heat until they are melted together. When they are, take the buttery goodness off the heat and add in the chocolate. I like to have it ready broken into squares. I don’t add the chocolate when the pan is on the heat as it can burn and then it will never melt.
  3.  Tip half the chocolate mixture into the biscuits and mix until they are all covered. Then add in the marshmallows and mix some more.
  4.  Squash the mixture firmly into a baking tin so that it’s quite densely packed and when you’re happy with it, pour the other half of the chocolate mix across the top and spread out.
  5.  Pop in the fridge until cold, then enjoy the chocolatey biscuit goodness with a good book and a nice cup of tea.

Healthy Reading Treats

My current alternative to biscuits and tea

So apparently biscuits and English breakfast tea, combined with a sedentary day’s reading, though delicious and enjoyable, don’t make for the healthiest lifestyle. Drat. I’ve been feeling a little lacklustre, so decided to diversify my snack range. Instead of my usual book, biscuit and tea, I’ve been trying a range of caffeine free teas and vitamin filled nibbles.

My current favourite is Pukka’s Detox Tea with aniseed, cardamom, fennel and liquorice root. Unlike most herbal teas which smell great but taste like pond water, the tea has a really nice flavour- a subtle sweetness. Combined with the slightly salty taste of the edamame beans, you’ve got a full snack spectrum there without any pesky crumbs in your book. Result!

Book Famine, White Chocolate and Raspberry Blondie Feast

I had lots of plans for how I would spend the six weeks living alone. One idea was Pilates every other day to sort out the book belly before it became a problem but I ended up making these instead. Exercise has never really been my thing.

Yum, that is all

They are really easy and taste absolutely amazing. I have to take them to work because I’ve already eaten about half.

Ingredients

  • 200g salted butter
  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150 g raspberries
  • 150g chopped white chocolate

 

Method

  1. Melt the butter over a very low heat to avoid the salt burning, then when it’s all clear, stir in half the white chocolate.
  2. Cream the sugar and the eggs together until they are fluffy, then fold in the chocolate mixture, vanilla extract and the plain flour to make a thick batter.
  3. Pour the batter into a brownie tin then stud with the remaining chocolate and the raspberries.
  4. Bake at gas mark 4/160 Celsius for 40 minutes or until a fork comes out clean.

 

I’m between books at the moment. I finished Knots and Crosses by Ian Rankin yesterday and can’t decide what I should move on to. It’s beginning to worry me. I had to take a magazine on the bus this morning… I don’t know how I’ll cope tomorrow.

 

Sunday Snacks and Swimming

I’ve had a friend visiting this weekend, so didn’t make much progress with my reading though I have excelled myself on the snack front with these icy treats made from pulped strawberries and vanilla yogurt. Simple, healthy and deliciously sweet. Just blend a load of strawberries to a pulp, freeze in silicone mould for half an hour, top with vanilla yogurt and freeze for a few hours more. Voila.

I’ve spent the afternoon at our local outdoor pool swimming off my (book and) biscuit belly. Might even go tomorrow as well if I finish work in time!

Literary Pancakes

Natasha Solomon’s Baumtorte

There are a few foods in this world that I love more than the humble pancake- my preferred version being the crepe and not the Scotch or American styles. I used to spend far too much time cooking them as a teenager, to the point that my Dad asked me whether I was studying the art of pancake making as a form of zen.

In honour of pancake day, one of my favourite days of the year, I’ve been wracking my brain to think of a book which fully extolls the virtues of the humble pancake but I was stumped. Please let me know if you can think of one.

I did however think that the baumtorte in Mr Rosenblum’s List might be perfect for this kind of occasion, I think it is good to have happy rememberances of people, as well as sad ones.

You may remember that I had planned to cook this myself, but sadly I forgot to get the recipe before I passed the bookon to an eager recipient. Never fear! Natasha Solomon herself has come to my rescue with her blog and a recipe in The Times.

My pancake mountain

So until I write my own novel in which pancakes and all things nice are heavily featured, please feast your eyes on my contribution to unhealthy eating. I hope you are enjoying feasting on your own pancakes as well.

Feasting on Roald Dahl

I’ve been having a bit of a Roald Dahl thing today. I’m tutoring a little girl to help her improve her literacy, and I thought that a great text to base the reading and writing activities around so that there would be an obvious theme for her while she practises writing for different purposes and gets to practise her reading would be George’s Marvellous Medicine.

There was always something which appealed to me about Roald Dahl’s description of George adding the various ingredients to the magic mixture which always appealed to me. Maybe it was partly George’s silly puns (Canary Seed – that ought to make the old bird sing) or the gloopy, glossy textures of paints, shampoos and ointments but I’ve always loved the great appeal to the senses in Dahl’s description, even though the stories are otherwise basic. I think that’s where their brilliance lies.

The lists of food Mr Fox stole from the mean farmers always made my stomach growl, never mind the descriptions of goodies in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory. So I decided that I would bake a cake in tribute to Dahl’s food. A Bruce Bogtrotter vs Trunchbull masterpiece I am going to make a massive chocolate cake.