Bakewell tart 10 2016

Bakewell Tart and Delicious Traditions

Another season down and on to feeding the creative side of my brain!  I managed to end the tax season in my typical fashion of coming down with a really bad cold.  So much for hitting the ground running.  I am finally catching up with everything.  Unfortunately bills and things have to have a higher priority than blogging.  Boo.

Part of my inspiration this year for blogging is to bake or cook dishes that have a bit of family tradition.  I place a great deal of value on having a connection with the past as we go forward with the new generations.  I don’t like history forgotten.

A few weeks ago I asked my dad what treats his mum cooked or baked when he was growing up.  My Grandma is someone I’d love to go back in time and spend a day baking with.  She was incredibly smart and the ultimate multi-tasker.  I sometimes think she would read, watch telly, and do the cross word at the same time because her brain needed the high end exercise.  She passed away when I was very young but I have wonderful memories of her.

My dad responded with a list of things she would make like amazing homemade bread, sponge cake, and bramley apple pies.  She would also make bakewell tarts.  As this has been on my list for awhile I thought that would be a great place to start.

The recipe I used was from the Baking with Mary Berry baking book my sister gave me for my birthday.  It is actually pretty straight forward.

Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.

In a mixing bowl add 1 1/2 cups of flour and 6 tablespoons of cold butter.  You will see this is not for the faint of heart when it comes to butter!

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Using a pastry fork blend the butter and flour until well blended.  You want it to look like small bread crumbs.  I found it weird that no salt was in the recipe.  It wasn’t too bad but next time I make it I would add about 1/4 tsp of salt.

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The next step is to add a bit of cold water at a time until the pastry comes together.  This part is hard to explain as you don’t want it too dry or too wet.  So keep adding until is just comes together.  This step always brings me back to when my dad taught me how to make pastry.  He learned from my Grandma.  I was an adult when he taught me but it was still fun standing side by side learning from him.

Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

In a saucepan, melt 9 tablespoons (see what I mean?) and add 1/2 cup of sugar.  Cook for a minute or so.  Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes.

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A one large egg, beaten, 3/4 cup of rice flour, and 1/2 tsp of almond extract.  Mix well.

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Set aside.  Grease a tart pan that has a loose bottom.  The recipe called for 7 1/2in/19cm diameter pan.  I don’t have one of those but I have a rectangle one roughly the same area size.  Roll out the pastry and lightly press into the pan.

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Trim the excess and set aside.  Spread raspberry jam on the bottom of the pastry.  I kept it a bit too thin this time round but I will put more in.

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Pour in the filling and then cut the excess pastry in to strips and place them in a criss cross pattern.  Brush with milk.

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Bake for about 45-50 minutes until golden brown and the filling is set.

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If you would like dust it with icing sugar.

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This isn’t overly complicated and is worth the effort to make.  The almond and raspberry flavours are a great pairing.  I hope I did my Grandma proud.  :)

Pear gooseberry cake 1 2016

Pear and Gooseberry Cake

Oh, just two more weeks of tax season and then I can get back to blogging more regularly.  Can’t wait!  Yesterday I didn’t have time to blog because I was baking and cooking up a storm.  It felt so good to be up and moving about.

The PT is working really well.  I went back to Pilates and last week after doing a forearm plank suddenly my shoulder felt fixed.  Figured out the bicep tendon had been flipped out of it’s groove for months.  Geez, if I had known doing planks would help I would have done that a lot sooner!  It’s wonderful not to feel old and infirm.  Can’t tell you how excited I am about this!

For St Patrick’s Day I usually cook something Irish.  Go figure, right?  As a treat I found a Pear and Gooseberry Cake with a Black Currant Compote in The Irish Isle by Sharon O’Connor.

Pear gooseberry cake 1 2016

It can be tricky to find ripe pears and because I only decided to do this on the day, the pears were pretty hard.  I microwaved them for a bit to soften them a little.  They were still on the firm side after baking but it was balanced with the softer gooseberries.

Preheat the oven to 375F/190C.

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This is a cake not made with a mixer.  In a bowl mix together 1 3/4 cups of self rising flour, pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of ground ginger.

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Cut in 4oz of cold butter into the flour mixture.  You want to mix the butter in well enough that it looks like bread crumbs.

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Add in the two pears, chopped and about 1 1/2 cups of gooseberries.  The recipe calls for 3 cups but that would be way too much and put out the cake out of balance.  Mix well.  Add a 1/2 cup of sugar.

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Add 2 beaten eggs and 1/2 a cup of milk.  Mix and then spread out into a 9 x 13″ pan.

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Sprinkle with brown sugar and bake for 25-30 minutes.

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While the cake is baking put a cup or so of black currants in a small saucepan.  Add about a 1/2 a cup of water.  Bring it to a simmer.  Gradually add brown sugar until you get the balance of sweet and tart you like.  Just don’t make it thick like jam.  I kept it on the tart side because my husband loves the flavour of the black currants.

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This is a very moist cake with a lovely sweet and tart flavour to it.  I do apologise for the last picture.  My camera was being wonky, I think because the batteries weren’t  charged properly.  I have to say it’s nice that it is so light later now, I’m back to being able to use natural light again.

Creme patissiere 18 2016

Sugar Crust with Crème Pâtissièrere

It’s back to reality after the holidays, kids back to school (they weren’t too thrilled!) and we’re back to work.  All the build up for the holidays and poof it’s gone in a blink of an eye.  We spend a lot of that “spring” cleaning.  It feels good to start the year off without clutter.  I’d like to know where it all comes from, seriously I think it multiplies.  I hate the clear outs but I love the results.  It motivates me to try new things and let the creativity flow.

For Christmas my husband and I try to be creative and feed our hobbies for gifts.  We don’t need stuff per se.  The Great British Bake Off has lit a bit of a fire under us to branch out in the baking arena and I knew we were going to bake through the break.  I found a fluted tart pan with the removable bottom for my husband.  Imagine my surprise when I opened the same gift from him!  Luckily we got two different sizes.  Great minds!

Have you ever wanted to bake something and you follow recipes and it comes out completely differently?  Boy did that happen to me.  I wanted to make tarte au citron that Mary Berry does.  I started everything and realised I didn’t have all the ingredients.  You’d think I was new at this.  So I thought well the set lemon tart is a set lemon tart so I used Julia Child.  I ended up with a strange lemon flavoured whipped meringue tart.  Tasted good but definitely not what I was going for.  So I need to get the ingredients for the tarte au citron and try it again!  But I did like the sugar crust so I made it again and decided to use Julia Child’s crème pâtissière.  I could eat bowls of that!

For the crust I used Mary Berry’s recipe for the crust.  It’s not difficult but it is very fiddly.  The sugar weakens the structure.  You also want to keep the butter cold through this process.

In a food processor add 6oz of flour, 3 1/2 oz of butter cubed, and 1oz of icing sugar.

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Pulse until well blended.  Add one egg yolk and 1 tablespoon of cold water to the food processor.

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Pulse again to blend.  Now her recipe says it would come together in clumps.  So far it hasn’t done that for me but when you test it you want the mixture to stick together when pressed.

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Tip out onto to the counter and press the mixture together firmly until the pastry comes together in a ball.  The trick is to not overwork the crust and make it tough.

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Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes.  Lightly grease the tart pan.  Now the directions state to lay out parchment paper and to place the bottom of the tart on the paper.  Draw a circle that is an inch and a half bigger than the tart bottom.  This is to give you a guide when rolling out the pastry.  I made this crust twice this week and tried it the first time and didn’t do it the second.  For me it didn’t make a difference but if it helps you go for it.  Flour the bottom and the paper and place the pastry in the centre.

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Flatten out the pastry out then roll.  This is where the swearing begins.  Did I mention it is fiddly?  Keep the rolling pin floured because it will stick!  This is the most frustrating part of the whole process.

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Carefully fold the pastry in on itself so the bottom shows.  Drop it into the tart frame.

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Carefully press the pastry into the flutes.  A trick that is mentioned is to use spare pastry to press in the pastry without poking holes into it.  That works somewhat.  You can also use a knuckle.  Just keep the nails away!  Allow a bit of overhang as the pastry will shrink when blind baking.

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Use a fork to dimple the base without poking completely through. Chill for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven at 400F/200C. When ready to bake line the pastry with tin foil and fill with dry beans.

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Bake 10-12 minutes.  Remove the tin foil and the beans.  Trim the excess pastry off the edge. Bake again until it is golden brown and cooked through.  Unfortunately I got sucked into Star Wars.  I was getting my geek on!  So I was just a few minutes late in getting back to the oven.  So it browned a little too much!

Set the pastry aside to cool.  On to the crème pâtissière!  This isn’t difficult but you need a bit of elbow grease with the whisk.  I added a bit more milk to Julia Child’s recipe because I didn’t want it to be overly thick but yet have it set.

Using a mixer gradually mix in a cup of granulated sugar into 5 egg yolks.  Keep beating until the mixture forms pale yellow ribbons.

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Gradually and slowly pour 2 1/4 cup of milk that has been brought to the boil.  You need to do this slowly because you don’t want to scramble the eggs with the hot milk.  Add the mixture into a large saucepan and put it over medium heat.  Keep whisking while it comes to a boil.  It will get thick before it gets smooth again.

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Once it comes to a boil, lower the heat and whisk it for a couple of more minutes to cook the flour.  Remove from the heat.

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Add a tablespoon of butter and 1 1/2 tablespoons of vanilla extract.

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Mix well and let it cool.  Once it is cool enough spoon it into the pastry crust.  Let it set in the fridge until it is time to serve.  Slice fruit of your choice.  We had some lovely strawberries to use up.  Dust with icing sugar.

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Not going to lie, this was delicious.  With dishes like this I won’t bother with resolutions to lose weight!  I mean, who am I kidding.  :)

 

Focaccia 10 2015

Focaccia Bread

We are totally hooked on the show The Great British Bake Off.   Completely sucked in.  Not only do you get great tips on baking, history of the baked goods, and great ideas, but it is such a refreshing competition.  Stateside, a lot of the food competitions are high pressure, overly dramatic, and people like Gordon Ramsey pound the table and scream a lot.  This one, every one is friendly.

Of course my husband and I are adding to our list of things we want to try to bake.  Yesterday I tried Paul Hollywood’s Focaccia Bread.  I find people’s approaches to known breads fascinating.  Paul’s approach seems more modern while Dan Leader’s approach is more old world.  Dan Leader’s recipe takes two days vs a few hours with Paul Hollywood’s recipe.

In a mixing bowl add 500 grams flour, two teaspoons salt, 12g yeast, and 2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Now it’s been mentioned on the show that the salt shouldn’t touch the yeast.  Well at least until you mix it all together.  Most recipes don’t mention keeping them separate.  So I’m interested in researching this more.  However, the end result didn’t seem that different from other recipes.  It may be a preference more than anything else.

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Add 300ml of lukewarm water.

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Mix well then add, slowly, an additional 100ml of lukewarm water.  This is a very wet and sticky dough.  When this is fully incorporated knead by hand in the bowl for 5 minutes.

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I found this part hard given my height to the counter and it’s not easy for me to do that with my shoulder issues but do the best you can.  Then you have to stretch the dough and fold it over itself, for another five minutes, turning the bowl as you do this.  One good trick that was given on the show was to oil the surface you will knead on and oil your hands.  Doing this rather than using flour will keep the dough moist.  Turn out the dough onto the oiled surface.

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Knead for a further 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic.

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Spray the bowl with oil and place the dough into the bowl.  Spray cling film with oil and cover the bowl.  Prove until the dough doubles in size.  This took about an hour or so.

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Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Divide the dough and press the pieces into rectangles and dimple the surface.  Cover with oiled cling film.  Be careful not to have the cling film pin down the dough.  It needs room to rise.

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Prove for another hour.  Preheat the oven to 425F/220C/Gas 7.  Once it is ready to bake drizzle the surface with olive oil.  I put a little to much on.  Sprinkle sea salt over it.

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We usually put in ice cubes in a hot cast iron skillet but we thought we’d try water.  As I had two loaves to bake I did ice with one and water with the other.  Because this only bakes for 20-25 minutes I didn’t notice a huge difference.  We did on my husband’s boule but that bakes for an hour and there was a difference there.  At any rate bake the focaccia until golden brown.

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Much, much different from the bread you get in restaurants.  Doing research online, I wonder what is actually made in the restaurants, because what I made matched the images rather than the other stuff.

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It was very crispy on the crust and soft in the middle.  Perfect for dipping in olive oil.  This does make a lot so thank goodness for the freezer!

Now to decide what to bake next!

 

 

 

 

Irish apple cake 10 2015

Irish Apple Cake

Usually when our anniversary rolls round we are up to our ears in some house project.  If we were smart we’d do a trip or something fun like we did a few years ago.  But then again the list won’t take care of itself!

A big project is to redo the wrap around porch which means pulling up boards and lay new ones down as we go.  When most of it was done it was time to get in a skip to get the trash removed.  Silly me, I thought we could work on our foyer and walk in closet.  Might as well fill the skip up!

What was I thinking?  Granted it will cross two more projects off the list.  But we’re tired!  In the days leading up to our anniversary my husband took a few days off to make a dent in the projects.  When our anniversary rolled round we hit a wall where my husband had to handle things as I was unable to.  I felt guilty!  So I thought I should bake him a treat.  It was the least I could do.

Given that we went apple picking and we have a ton of apples I had to pick something that would use some up.  I have a great book called “Irish Traditional Cooking” by Darina Allen.  In it is a recipe for Irish Apple Cake.  I mostly followed it.

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.

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In a medium sized bowl add 2 cups of flour, 1/3 tsp baking powder, and 8 T of butter.  You want the butter at room temperature so you can blend the ingredients.  With a pastry fork or your hands work the ingredients together until it looks like breadcrumbs or small beads.

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Mix in half a cup of sugar then add one beaten egg.

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You will need 1/2 to 2/3 cup of milk.  Gradually add a little bit of milk at a time until the dough is soft and incorporated.  This dough will be a pain to work with as it is wet and sticky.  Flour your hands and rolling pin to work with it.

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Grease a 9″ spring form pan.  Roll out half of the dough and place it in the bottom of the pan.

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There is a good chance you’ll have to patch holes with this so don’t be discouraged.  Press the dough up the sides a bit.  Slice a couple of apples and layer them round the middle.  Sprinkle brown sugar over the apples.

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Roll out the rest of the dough and place over the apples.  Brush with a beaten egg.

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Bake for 40 minutes or so until the dough is cooked and a nice golden colour.

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Good luck waiting until this cools.  Slice and serve.

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My husband did appreciate this with a cup of tea when he got a chance to take a break and sit for awhile.  :)

Apple Picking 7 2015

It Was A Glorious Day….

I wonder if we have enough wood in the carriage house to build an ark.  We’re forecast to get about 9 inches of rain in our area.  Pretty much all the rain we needed this summer.  All at once.  It doesn’t have to be a big ark, mind.  Not looking to do two by two of all the animals, crikey, we have enough on our hands with our two dogs and cat!

I do worry about several neighbourhoods round here as they are prone to flood badly.  This won’t be good for them I fear.

We did, however, had an amazing weekend.  The weather was glorious for our apple picking.  It’s an annual tradition and I think we had the best weather yet.

So this is a quick post to share some photos of our day.

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Now to figure out what to do with all the apples!  It was quite the crop this year with massive apples.  Definitely an apple pie will be made, but there are so many choices!

Bacon Leek Quiche 6 2015

Bacon Leek Quiche

The air is crisp and you know what that means!  Baking!  It’s been gorgeous this week with lovely breezes and fresh air.  There is something about baking with the windows up and and the trees rustling.

Because I have classes to teach two nights a week I try to get dinner sorted for the family.  I also wanted something for the school lunches.  Quiche fit the bill as it can be served cold and would be a nice twist for the kids.

For the pastry make one half of this pastry recipe I do for my apple pies.

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C.

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In a mixing bowl beat 4 eggs and add 1 1 /2 cups of milk.  Season with sea salt and pepper and a bit of cayenne pepper.  Mix and set aside.  Grate just over a cup of jarlsberg cheese and set that aside as well.  Chop up 4 rashers of streaky bacon and start rendering in a skillet.  While this cooks add a few chopped mushrooms and leeks.  Add a few splashes of sherry.

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Spoon the bacon and leeks into the pastry shell.

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Sprinkle the cheese over the mixture.

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Pour the egg and milk mixture into the pastry.

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Bake for 15 minutes then lower the heat to 350F/175C and bake for another 30 minutes.  Remove from the oven when the eggs have set.

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I do like the combo of bacon and leek.  They go very well together!

Gooseberry muffins 5 2015

Gooseberry Muffins

I am a happy camper.  We had a decent storm blow through last night.  As it pushed through it took the humidity with it.  Ahhh.  We turned our air conditioners off and threw open the windows.  Fingers crossed the worst of the summer heat is behind us.

I was saying to my husband this morning that I am very ready for cool weather comfort foods.  Though in about 5 months I’ll be dying for a salad.  And the cycle continues!

A few days ago as I was cooking the Italian Burgers I realised I hadn’t set up the breakfasts for the week for the kids.  So I needed something quick.  We had frozen gooseberries to use and the kids love muffins so I whipped up a batch.  I did defrost the berries and let them drain so the muffins wouldn’t get soggy.

I used the recipe for the base of the muffin that is in the Pillsbury’s Complete Book of Baking.

Preheat the oven to 400F/205C.

In a bowl add 2 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 3 teaspoons of baking powder, and 1/2 a teaspoon of salt.

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In a separate bowl, mix 3/4 cup of milk, 1/3 cup of oil, and 1 beaten egg.

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Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients all at once.  Add the fruit and mix well.  The trick is not to overwork the batter.  It will be lumpy.  That’s ok, just make sure the ingredients are incorporated.

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Spoon it evenly into 12 muffin cups.  Sprinkle brown sugar over the tops of the batter.

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Bake for about 25 minutes, until the they are golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when it you test the muffins.

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Delicious warm or for breakfast before school.  And perfect for when you forget to make the school breakfasts in a timely manner!

Olaf birthday cake 2 2015

How Many Birthdays Fit on a Cake?

Go ahead.  Question my sanity.  It was my idea to have a family get together where we celebrate 8 out of the 12 birthdays.  Given how this year has gone from on emergency to another in the family and my sister in the middle of her recovery, there hasn’t been time to get together as a family!

I am sure I wasn’t the only one wondering what we were getting ourselves into.  It’s one thing to all get together for a meal but another to get through all the presents and cake in a short amount of time. But it was a lovely day.  The weather was gorgeous and the kids had a great time running about.  I think the cutest thing was my three year old nephew getting a hold of the hose.  This little peanut hosing down his wagon.  And of course when he turned so did the water.  We stayed out of range.  :)

The tricky bit I had to sort out was the cake.  Five of the birthdays were for the kids.  Originally I planned on doing cupcakes but I just didn’t have the time to decorate individual cupcakes, it would be faster to do a cake.  But how to do a cake for kids ranging from 3-14 without making it crowded or corny?

I really wanted each of them to be represented so it took me a couple of days to figure it out.  The littlest one is majorly into Thomas the Train.  He is just enthralled with the whole thing.  My niece loves My Little Pony, my other nephew is into Pokemon, and my son thinks Olaf is the best thing since sliced bread.  And of course my daughter who is becoming a young lady so she’s not into those types of things but she had to be represented somehow.

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Thank goodness for the internet.  A quick search leads to ideas on how to make a character so it actually looks like it.  It’s one thing to freehand volcanoes and castles but I can’t screw up Olaf!

I also did the pokemon circle in gum paste but due to time constraints I went store bought for the rest.  I don’t think I have the skills yet to do Thomas or My Little Pony.

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Olaf birthday cake 4 2015Added a bit of flowers for my daughter and a bit of whimsy with yellow.

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We had a wonderful day of family, good food, and laughter.  The best bit was my little nephew’s face when he realised it was Thomas on the cake.  :)

Rhubarb ginger tart 5 2015

Rhubarb Ginger Tart

As I suspected I was spoilt for Mother’s Day.   Saturday night they made me a wonderful meal of tapas from around the world.  My husband was thinking light and Spanish but the kids had other ideas!  My husband made a potato and swiss chard souffle and it was accompanied by mushrooms cooked in butter, chicken satay, and spring rolls.  Delicious all of it!  To finish off the meal they made me a pavlova which was decorated by mangoes spelling out MUM.  That was my daughter’s idea.:)

For the gift I was presented with the largest gift bag.  So either it was going to be a large gift or a small gift with lots of packaging.  After removing about a year’s supply of tissue paper I found a new tripod.  A much more sturdy tripod.  The other one, while a major help, would wobble and it made us nervous my good camera would tip over.  The lovely weekend was finished off by playing games with the kids.  My favourite way to hang out with them.  :)

I did manage to fit in some baking.  Our rhubarb isn’t quite ready but the co-op had some so I thought I’d do a treat for our kids.  My son really loves rhubarb so I couldn’t resist.  For the pastry I used the same recipe as my apple pie.  Only make one batch as you would for a pie without a cover.

Rhubarb ginger tart 1 2015

I love fresh ginger in jams and I thought it would be great with the rhubarb.  I had three stalks of rhubarb for this recipe.  Slice the rhubarb in small slices so it cooks down faster.

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Add a tablespoon or so of fresh lemon juice and begin to simmer.  If the rhubarb is on the dry side just add a bit of water while it simmers.  Grate a piece of ginger about an inch/2.5cm square.  This needs to be finely grated so it incorporates fully.

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As the fruit softens and becomes jam like add 1/4 cup of maple syrup.  The real kind.  Do you know there was a poll done and a large percent prefers the fake stuff?  Shows how sad the state of our food has become.  Allow it to cook some more and add more maple syrup if needed.  While this is cooking preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Spoon the mixture into the pastry.

Rhubarb ginger tart 4 2015Bake for about 25 minutes until the pastry is flaky.  Let them cool completely so you don’t risk burning yourself.

Rhubarb ginger tart 5 2015The kids loved these.  Our son says he could eat rhubarb all the time so it was a fun treat.  And on a hot day a quick thing to bake without bringing the kitchen to tropical temps!