Thursday, 17 December 2009

Menu for Hope 6 and Cranberry Apple Spice Cake

Menu for Hope 6 3

There’s only 9 days left on Menu for Hope people!! The great news is that, as of this morning, it’s already raised over $12,000. But I’m hoping that we can do WAY better than that! Spread the word! Shout it from the roof tops! Blog! Tweet! Facebook it! Whatever you do, make sure people know about it.

And hey, if you’re not a baked goods fan (although I do think that makes you certifiable) there’s a whole bunch of other stuff you can bid on!! We’re thinking of spending a few days in Paris for our honeymoon, before heading to a little chateaux somewhere with yummy food and vineyard tours so here’s a few of the items I’m going to bid on…

EU02 – Tour of France wine – An afternoon of tasting French wines? Yes please!
EU03 – Wine and cheese lunch - my two FAVORITE things! Mmmm, French cheese…
EU05 – Cooking Class in Paris – oh yes. That sounds INCREDIBLE!
EU19 – Personalised one-day Paris Itinerary. Ooo, I really want to win this one.
EU31 – Market Tour and Cooking Class in Burgundy – ok, so I’m actually DESPERATE to win this one!
EU34 – Private Chocolate Tour and Tasting in Rococo Chocolate in London. I know, it’s not France, but this chocolate is A-MAZ-ING.

But then there’s this one, this one, this one and this one too! Argh, I’m so torn! I have no idea how I’m going to narrow it down. Oh well – maybe I’ll just have to put a ticket on each. It is for charity, after all...

So basically, if my entry doesn’t float your boat, PLEASE don’t let that stop you from helping to support this fantastic cause. It’s only about £6.20 (US$10) for a ticket - that's the price of a cocktail in London.

There's also a great new widget to make donating even easier - just click on this link.
Menu for Hope 6 2

But to hawk my entry a little, Here’s a little something to whet your appetite. This beauty not only tastes delicious but lasts really well. Actually improves in flavour if left until the second day so will be perfect for me to post to wherever you are!
cranberry apple cake

Festive but (unlike most festive treats) it’s not crazy heavy or crazy sweet. Moist, spongey and filled with tart cranberries and apples. Practically a health food! Ok, that might be stretching things a little too far, but it can’t be as bad as a mince pie.

Cranberry Apple Spice Cake

Adapted from Joy the Baker

375g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ tsp salt
1 ½ cups (375ml) flavourless oil (sunflower, vegetable or similar)
3 large eggs
300g caster sugar
110g brown sugar
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
1 tbsp rum, bourbon or other spirit you have on hand. Or orange juice if you’re out of the hard stuff!
1 tsp vanilla extract
3 tart apples (granny smith, bramley, something along those lines) peeled, cored and cut into little cubes – about 1/4 “
1 cup (probably about 125g) fresh cranberries, very roughly chopped. You could swap in dried fruit like raisins or apricots if you can’t get fresh cranberries.

Preheat the oven to 350F or 180C or Gas Mark 4.

For this, I used a bundt pan as, on a whim, I bought one recently. It does look super cute in a bundt pan but this could equally make 2 loaves or a 7” square tin. Whatever you choose to use, butter and flour the tin (or line with greaseproof paper) and knock the excess flour out.

Then – easy as anything – in one bowl, mix up the oil, eggs, sugars, cinnamon, nutmeg, alcohol and vanilla. In another, sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt. Then fold the flour mix gently into the oil mix, until only just combined. Remember, overmixing once the flour is in there develops the gluten and leads to rubbery cakes! Yuck.

Carefully fold in the fruit before transferring the mixture to the prepared pan. Bake for about 1hr 15mins until a skewer comes out clean. Then leave in the tin to cool for 30 mins before transferring onto a cooling rack to finish cooling. As I baked mine last thing at night, I actually left it in the tin to cool with a tea towel over the top and it was absolutely fine.

Dust with a light snow of icing sugar before serving.

Rosy xx

Monday, 14 December 2009


Menu for Hope 6 3

As I may have already mentioned, I love the blogging community. There’s so much community spirit and just a whole tonne of love (in baking form) going around. I’ve met some absolutely incredible, like minded people who have fast become firm friends and who make my days that little bit brighter with their blogs and stories of their culinary adventures! So imagine my joy when I discovered that there’s a way that my little blog could help feed the world! Ok, so that’s a slight exaggeration, but when I heard about Menu for Hope 6 I knew I just had to participate.

So this is the deal. Menu for Hope is an annual fundraising campaign, hosted by Chez Pim, which raises money for the UN World Food Programme, helping to feed hungry people worldwide. Isn’t that just about the best cause ever?? Specifically, it’s the Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative. P4P enables smallholder and low-income farmers to supply food to the World Food Programme’s global operation. P4P helps farmers improve farming practices and puts more cash directly into their pockets in return for their crops. This will also help buoy local economy by creating jobs and income locally. We food bloggers understand the importance of buying locally and supporting our local farms, P4P helps do the same for farmers in low income countries around the world. All about building sustainable communities. For more information, check out their website

Menu for Hope 6 2

This year, in all my Christmas-induced enthusiasm, I decided to donate a bid item! So. Here goes. It is…(Drum roll please)

A box of home baked goods delivered to you every month for a year! Yes, that’s 12 batches of delicious home made cakes and treats, chosen by you, delivered to you every month for ONE WHOLE YEAR! I’ll even pop in the recipes so you can recreate them. That’s a whole lota love in homebaked form.

You could either choose to have 12 regular deliveries or it could be grouped into fewer, larger deliveries if you prefer (Christmas or Easter pressies, maybe?). I will personally deliver the items if you live in London and will entrust them to the Post Office for the UK and the rest of Europe. Ooo, or you could even make this a present for one of your bestest friends or family memebers! That would be SUPER sweet.

As for what the baked goodies are, the only limit is your imagination. Well, and the post-ability and perish-ability! So what floats your boat? Tickles your fancy? Gets your tastebuds a-tingling?

Some gingerbread maybe?


Maybe your sweet tooth craves vanilla fudge?


Or chocolate biscotti?

Maybe this delicious apple and cranberry spice cake is more your cup of tea?

cranberry apple cake

Or how about brownies? Oh, how I love these babies...


Maybe a touch healthier, could do some of this pecan almond granola…

Pecan granola

I could go on forever about possibilities… Handmade chocolates, pistachio cardamom shortbread, fudge, chocolate buttercrunch toffee, muffins, marshmallows, ginger chewies…. The list goes on. And those are just if I have to post them! Imagine if you’re in London. Cupcakes, lemon tarts, rich iced chocolate cakes or moist coffee cake to really give you that morning coffee kick!

Or, if you just can’t choose, you could make it a surprise! I’ll pick something lush each month to bake and send to you. Do mention if you have any major dislikes or allergies though!

ginger chewies

So I’m REALLY hoping that this has got you oh so excited about Menu for Hope and just about falling off your seat wanting to know how you can help a great cause and (finger’s crossed) win a whole heap of baked treats. You’ll be about the most popular person in the office – should you choose to share of course. Me, I’d probably just spend a Sunday afternoon with some cheesy chick flicks and a mountain of cake… But hey, I’m just a little selfish like that.

So, what you need to do now is…

1. Choose a bid item or bid items of your choice from our Menu for Hope main bid item list (yep, there’s LOTS of other super exciting prizes to choose from!)

2. Go to the donation site at Firstgiving and make a donation*.

3. Please specify which bid item you'd like in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your donation. You must write-in how many tickets per bid item, and please use the bid item code - for my item, it’s EU13.

Each US$10 (about £6.20 at the moment) you donate will give you one raffle ticket toward a bid item of your choice. For example, a donation of US$50 can be 2 tickets for EU01 (chocolate basket! YUM!) and 3 tickets for EU13 - 2xEU01, 3xEU13.
4. If your company matches your charity donation, please check the box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

5. Please check the box to allow us to see your email address so that we can contact you in case you win. Your email address will not be shared with anyone.

Menu for Hope 6 2

Important things to note:

This runs from TODAY (14th December 2009) to CHRISTMAS DAY (25th December 2009) with the lucky winners being announced here on 18th JANUARY 2010.

We don’t touch any of the money – through using the Firstgiving website, they do all the collection and payment processing and then at the end of the event, transfer the proceeds to the World Food Programme in one lump sum. For more details, go to Chez Pim’s website. Or ask me a question! We want to be as transparent as possible in our fundraising.

If you’re not in Europe, not to worry! This is a global fundraising event and all the other areas that are covered are listed here.

Phew! That’s one monster post. Although I’ve tried my absolute best to cover all possible questions, I’ve probably missed something, so do feel free to ask me a question, either in the comments or pop me an email on And go! Get some raffle tickets!!! Share that Christmas spirit. Here's to a super successful Menu for Hope 6! And do please check out all the other super cool bid items here. Many thanks to David and Sara for hosting for the UK and Europe.

Love Rosy xx

* Please note that Firstgiving only accepts credit cards. This is due to the international nature of this fundraising event - I'm hoping that this isn't a problem for too many people and apologies if it is! I have spoken to them about making it debit card accessible but it doesn't look like its going to be possible for this year's event.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Gingerbread Party!

Mmmm, gingerbread... Isn't gingerbread just the perfect holiday baked good? It fills the house with the most warm and comforting festive scents and you just can't help but feel that swell of excitement, knowing that Christmas is just around the corner.

So easy to make too! The dough comes together in a matter of minutes and, unlike pastry, can put up with a fair amount of handling, so perfect for a cold Sunday afternoon activity with children. Or even a group of 20-something year old adults in this case! Not that you'd think that from the fruits of our labour...

Ahem, yes, children made this... That's the reason for the somewhat vibrant decorations! (rather large children) There's a cool 1kg of icing on top of this baby. And that doesn't include the 5 bags of sweet that were placed thrown on the outside. I do love the tree with all the little pressies under it though...

So that's what we made at the end of an afternoon drinking copious quantities of mulled wine (with a VERY generous slug of brandy added!) and eating nothing but sugar. In our more sober moments, we did do some more regular decorating.

LOVE his mustache. Like Poirot the snowman...

Here's the recipe - very simple, and the gingerbread keeps well for a good week or so in an airtight container. I'm going to whip up some more of these and tie red gingham ribbon to them to hang from our Christmas tree. Eeekk, getting SO excited about Christmas now!!


Adapted from Delia's Book of Cakes

75g soft brown sugar
2 tbsp (50g) golden syrup
1 tbsp (30g) black treacle - I think this is also called molasses
1 tbsp water
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger, or a touch more if you like them spicy
1 pinch ground cloves
finely grated rind of 1/2 orange
95g butter, cut up a bit
1/2 level tsp bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
225g plain flour

Put the sugar, golden syrup, black treacle, water, spices and orange rind in a saucepan. Pop over a meduim heat and stir until it comes up to the boil.

Take off the heat and add the butter and bicarb of soda. Mix well until the butter melts - it can look a bit like its separating at this stage, but just keep on stirring and it will come together into a gorgeous, slick, gingery syrup in no time.

Gradually add the flour, stirring well, until it forms a smooth dough. You can add a little more flour if you think it's necessary but do bear in mind that when it's cooled down a bit, it will become much firmer and easier to manage. I normally find that this is the right amount of flour. It should come together nicely and leave the sides of the pan (fairly) clean.

Wrap the dough in cling film and pop in the fridge for about half an hour, or up to a couple of days if you're making it ahead.

When you're ready to bake the gingerbread, roll it out onto a lightly floured work surface to around 1/8th of an inch (3mm) thick (or thinner if, like me, you like thin, crispy gingerbread) and cut out whatever shapes you fancy. For trees decorations, make a hole using the tip of an icing nozzle or a skewer. I tend to avoid making men or angels for the tree as I'm not a fan of making holes in their heads! Place on a greased baking sheet, spaced well apart as they spread a bit on cooking.

Bake for 8-12 mins (this depends on thickness so do keep an eye on them) until they feel firm when pressed with a finger tip. Leave to cool and go nuts with the decorations!

Rosy xx

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Carrot Apple Pecan Muffins

One major US export to the UK has to be muffins. When I was a girl, muffin translated as a flat-ish buttery, rich bread, fairly plain, that went equally wonderfully with lashings of jam (I'm trying to live up to the British stereotype and use words like lashings. Makes me feel all Swallows and Amazons. Love it) as with a poached egg and hollandaise sauce. Absolutely delicious – neither sweet nor savory and I shall forever have fond memories of Sunday supper with the family, sitting in the living room with a pot of tea, a stack of toasted muffins and watching the BBC adaptation of the Chronicles of Narnia.

American muffins could not bring to mind a more different picture. I always think of blueberry muffins, maple syrup, brunch and a typical US dinner, full of booths and shiny metal. American muffins are rarely basic. They come in a huge variety of flavours – the only limit to what hasn’t been included in a muffin is the kitchen sink. Not to do them a disservice, for I very much enjoy the American muffin, but often times home made versions have lots of flavour but the underlying texture is just not right at all. Too heavy or dry or just a bit cloyingly sweet.

These are those muffins which stopped one step short of said kitchen sink, but dry or cloyingly sweet they are not. They’re packed with yummy ingredients and flavours, plus you don’t feel horribly unhealthy eating them as the bulk of the mix is made up of grated carrots and apples. Must count for at least a couple of your 5 a day, right??! The crumble element does add a fair amount of sweetness though, so depending on how you like your muffins, omit or include as you see fit. Works well either way!

Carrot Apple Pecan Muffins

Adapted from The Ottolenghi Cookbook
Makes about 12 muffins (very generously!)

300g Plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
2 tsp cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 eggs
160ml Sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil)
280g caster sugar
2 tsp vanilla
220g peeled carrot, grated
200g bramley apple, grated (or Granny Smiths - any tart apple)
100g Pecans, roughly chopped
100g Sultanas
50g flaked coconut (the recipe calls for flaked, I used desiccated)

Crumble Topping:
50g Unsalted butter, cut into cubes
75g Plain flour
25g brown sugar
50g rolled oats
15g sunflower seeds
25g pumpkin seeds
1 tsp water
1 tsp sunflower oil
1 1/2 tbsp honey

First, make the crumble topping. Rub the butter into the flour and sugar with your fingertips until its in nice small pieces, like breadcrumbs. Then mix in the oats and seeds and then the water, oil and honey. It should resemble wet sand in texture. Pop to one side while you make the muffins.

Preheat the oven  to 170C/340F/Gas Mark 3. Line a muffin tin with paper cases.

The method for making the muffins is the classic mix the wet together and the dry together and then very carefully fold the dry into the wet. So...

Sift the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt together.

In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs, oil, sugar and vanilla essence together. Stir in the apples and carrots, then mix in the pecans, sultanas and coconut. Then gently fold the flour into the wet ingredients, only mixing JUST enough. Gluten, which makes the muffins chewy, is developed through over working of the batter. So mix as little as possible and they'll be just yummy!

Spoon them into the paper cases, filling to the top so you get the classic muffin tops. Crumble over the topping generously and bake for 25 mins. They're ready when they're springy on top and a skewer comes out clean. I made them a week or so ago so I can't remember exactly how long mine took to cook, but I have a feeling that they took a touch more than 25 minutes... Anyway, they actually taste better when they're left to sit for a couple of hours to let the flavours develop.

Normally, the WORST thing about home baked American muffins is their shelf life – I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a muffin which lasted beyond a day. But these are oh so different. I think it must be the carrots and apples again because they improve in flavour after a few hours of sitting and were just delicious several days after baking. Would be perfect for a brunch as they're wholesome, hearty, and taste just as great the next day.

Rosy xx

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Chocolate Brownies

Last night I needed brownies. Yes, there are some nights, especially around this time of year and with an impending wedding, that baked goods need to be frozen for a later date, but there are some nights when brownies are needed! And last night was one of those nights. I realised just how much I needed them when I was walking home from the supermarket and found myself praying - yes, actually asking the Lord himself - that the recipe wouldn't call for softened butter as I just simply couldn't wait that long.

And it didn't!! Aaahhh, melted butter, you are my saviour on cold winter nights when butter just won't come to room temperature fast enough and the microwave's exploded so I can't speed the process along...

I discovered David Lebovitz via the fabulous blogosphere and I love his blogs. I have to say his recipes are some of the most dependable around - always delicious! These were absolutely no excpetion to that rule. Brownies can be a tricky thing to master. Having read this article on what makes the perfect brownie, I was very pleased with the results but they lost out on speed and ease of baking. These, on the other hand, are wonderful. Moist, deeply chocolatey and just about as supernatural as a baked good can get! For the recipe, pop on over here and enjoy - although I'm sure it's VERY bad for my health that I have such a quick brownie recipe to hand...

Rosy xx

Ps the recipe actually says to leave the brownies overnight. Of course, I simply couldn't do that (who on earth has that kind of restraint?!) and they were great warm out of the oven with a dollop of cream... Ahem, please excuse the bite mark!

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

A very VERY late Golden Almond Fruitcake

I think I might actually be loosing my marbles!! I was determined to make this week's Sweet Melissa Sundays cake, even though the weekend left me no time to do it. I figured, as I need to cut down slightly on the amount of cake I'm eating (so I can gorge at Christmas, of course!) I'd bake this, pop it in the freezer and it would be perfect for the Church christmas coffee morning in a couple of weeks. So I rushed home from work last night and ploughed on with double the quantity in order to fit in to my big square cake tin rather than a loaf tin. I even remembered the marzipan and carefully laid out whole almonds on top in a neat pattern, rather than just scattering them on as the recipe called for. Out of the oven came a gorgeous, golden cake, filling the house with the warm smells of Christmas (I used allspice instead of cardamom) and I figured I'd snap a few shots of it this morning in the day light.

Then I got up, promptly forgot all about it and whacked it in the freezer before even taking so much as a before shot! So you're going to have to take my word for how lovely this cake looked and maybe I'll get a pic or two of it at the Christmas fair to add to this post!!

For some other gorgeous shots of this cake, have a look over at the other bakers' sites, and many thanks to Karin of Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice for such a wonderful pick! She has the recipe up on her site if you fancy a fruit cake that isn't quite as dense as the usual Christmas cake!

I promise I shall have a hunt for said marbles this evening and get some pics up on this blog again soon...

Rosy xx