MINCE PIE RECIPE

Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without a couple of mince pies; it is probably the first festive thing you will eat followed by a gingerbread latte in a Christmas cup. Costa I'm looking at you, and if you're going to eat a mince pie, it should be a homemade mince pie.

There, I said it, shop bought mince pies are an abomination just not right. Which is exactly why I am sharing my family, Grandma Smith's, mince pie recipe with you, they are so easy to make there really is no excuse.

So, get the mulled wine brewing, the buble tunes singing and the mincemeat marinating, you'll be feeling Christmassy in no time.
Ideally the mincemeat should be made as far ahead as possible to allow plenty of marinating time, a week is ideal but 24 hours will do!

INGREDIENTS
mincemeat
200g sultanas
200g raisins
100g dried cranberries
100g chopped apricot
1 grated apple
zest of 1 orange
zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1 orange
6 tbsp. brandy
100g suet
50g brown sugar

shortcrust pastry
175g plain flour
75g cubed salted butter
25g icing sugar
 zest of 1 orange
1 beaten egg

METHOD
  1. Put all of the mincemeat ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Stir well until all of the ingredients are well combined. 
  2. Pour the mixture into a food processor (you may need to do this a little at a time) and pulse a few times until the mixture is blended but some pieces of fruit are still chunky.
  3. Tip the mixture into pre-sterilised jars and put in a cool dry place to marinade for as long as possible.
  4. To make the shortcrust pastry, add the plain flour, butter, icing sugar and grated orange zest to a food processor and blend until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. 
  5. Pour the beaten egg into the processor, a little at a time, and pulse until the mixture just comes together as dough.
  6. Tip onto a floured surface and gently knead to form a ball. Wrap in Clingfilm and place in the fridge for 20-30 minutes or until firm.
  7. Preheat the oven to 180C fan.
  8. Roll the dough out on a floured surface to around 3mm thickness, until large enough to get 18 mince pies out.
  9. Cut out 18 fluted circles and gently press into a bun tin. From the remaining dough cut out chosen shapes to top the mince pies.
  10. Fill with the pre-prepared mincemeat, place a cut out shape on top and place in the oven for 12-15 minutes until golden brown.
  11. Once removed from the oven place onto a wire rack to cool. 
 If I do say so myself, this mince pie recipe is truly delicious, Granny Smith outdid herself! I hope you give them a go, as always please share your photos with me on Instagram or Twitter!

CHRISTMAS JAMMY DODGER RECIPE

The Christmas season is well and truly upon us and that means lots of entertaining. Next time you've got friends or family popping over for a Christmas cuppa whip up a batch of these super simple, festive jammy dodgers...a little bite of sweetness that will sit perfectly on the side of your guest's cup of tea or coffee.
INGREDIENTS
makes 12
125g unsalted butter
110g caster sugar
225g plain flour

your favourite flavour jam
icing sugar to dust

METHOD
  1. Beat the butter and sugar in a bowl until pale and creamy. Add the egg and vanilla essence and beat for a further 2-3 minutes until combined.
  2. Sift the flour into the bowl and beat again until the mixture just comes together as soft dough. (If you don't have a dough hook this will take 10-15 minutes)
  3. Place the dough between two sheets of non-stick baking paper and roll out to around 3mm thickness. Place in the fridge for 1 hour or until firm.
  4. Preheat oven to 160C and line two baking trays with non-stick baking paper. 
  5. Remove from the fridge and cut out 24 fluted square shapes. Cut your chosen smaller shapes out of half of the squares. Place onto the baking trays and bake for 10-12 minutes until lightly golden.
  6. Leave on the tray to cool for a few minutes before moving to a wire rack. Dust the cut out squares with icing sugar, spread jam on the other squares and sandwich together.
If I do say so myself these taste even better than shop bought jammy dodgers hence why my main tip is to bake two batches, they won't last two minutes!

ALTERNATIVE CHRISTMAS PUDDING: CHOCOLATE FONDANT RECIPE

Every year my mum makes at least five Christmas puddings, one for us and one for all the orders from friends and family, and whilst I am assured by said friends and family that these puddings are utterly delicious...I have no doubt as my mum is an incredible baker...I am just not a fan of the traditional Christmas pudding.

Hence how the alternative Christmas pudding came about, created for myself and my brother to eat on Christmas Day (of course it is just a delicious year round as an decadent dessert). With its traditional Christmas pudding shape and truly indulgent nature the chocolate fondant seemed like the obvious choice and so it has become our little festive tradition.
INGREDIENTS
makes 4
165g dark chocolate, at least 70% cocoa solids
165g unsalted butter
85g caster sugar
3 medium eggs
2 tbsp plain flour

METHOD
  1. Grease 4 individual pudding moulds with butter.
  2. Put the butter and chocolate into a heatproof bowl and place over a saucepan of gently simmering water (ban marie). Remove from the heat and allow the chocolate, butter mixture to melt.
  3. In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together for 6-7 minutes until pale and mousse like.
  4. Fold the chocolate mixture into the eggs mix carefully using a metal spoon. 
  5. Sift the flour into the mixture and again, carefully fold in.
  6. Divide the chocolate mixture between the pudding moulds. Add a tablespoon at a time to each mould until all the mixture has been used up.
  7.  Place in the fridge for at least 2 hours until firm. When ready to cook, heat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Place the moulds on a baking tray and bake for 14 minutes, until risen but not cracked on top. 
  8. Turn the puddings out, they should slide straight out, and serve immediately.
The best thing about these puddings is that they can be made up to 24 hours ahead of time, saving you all important time on the big day. Just make sure to leave them in the fridge!

What's your favourite thing to eat on Christmas Day?

CHRISTMAS JUMPER EDIT



Oh how the Christmas jumper has come on in the last couple of years. It used to be a totally 'tacktastic' affair with 3D noses, light up trees and jingly bells. Now it's more, a smattering of sequins, cute ribbons and festive slogans. There's a Christmas jumper for even the most humbug of humbugs and whilst I think a novelty jumper is an essential for everyone at this time of year, I am very much enjoying this new age of the Christmas jumper.

My collection is currently at two but there's definitely room for a couple more, now to decide which!

Which jumper is your favourite?

INSTAGRAM / TWITTER

Oh, and don't forget Christmas Jumper Day for Save the Children is Friday 16th December, make sure you wear yours!

SUNDAY SUPPLEMENT: KITCHEN, BEFORE & AFTER

The Butter Kitchen Before and After
The kitchen is the heart of the home, my favourite room in the house and the first room we completed. Which is exactly why it is the first room that I am sharing with you! We bought our first house in January of this year and have since been on a six month renovation journey to turn said house into our home. We are still a way off completion but the kitchen is finally...complete. I regularly post pictures of our progress and our purchases over on Instagram if you want to see more!

My biggest piece of advice when buying your first house would be to view any and every house that comes up within your chosen area (and backup areas) and within your budget. It wasn't until the tenth(ish) house and the loss of one house that we truly started to understand exactly what we liked in a house. For example I realised I much preferred properties with high ceilings, probably because my childhood home was a high ceiling Victorian villa, we weren't as bothered about the outside space as we originally thought and we definitely wanted an open plan kitchen, dining area.

Another thing to bear in mind, if the space you want isn't initially there; think about how it can be created. Floor plans became, and still are, my favourite things to look at. They give you a really clear view of the property layout and show which rooms could easily be knocked into one another to create the space you really want. This is exactly what we did...

BEFORE
The Butter Kitchen Before and After
The Butter Kitchen Before and After
Originally the kitchen was in, our now dining room and the now kitchen was a separate dining room altogether. We knew that we would never use a separate dining room and the kitchen itself was siphoned off at the back of the house, not the open plan entertaining space we were looking for!

DURING
The Butter Kitchen Before and After
The Butter Kitchen Before and After
Therefore we removed three walls, bricked up the back door, replacing with patio doors and turned the shower attached to the kitchen (is it just me that finds it really odd to have a shower attached to a kitchen?) into a utility room. This created the beautiful, large open space that we had been dreaming off.

AFTER
The Butter Kitchen Before and After
The Butter Kitchen Before and After
The Butter Kitchen Before and After

I am head over heels in love with our house and I am a little bit obsessed with our kitchen. I loved baking anyway but my obsession is now on another level, alongside my new found love of cooking...which doesn't always go to plan but hey it's the thought that counts!

We are currently awaiting the arrival of our dining table from the incredible Swoon Editions, if you haven't checked it out and are a homeware obsessive like me definitely take a look, and I now can't wait to get this area looking more complete also. My final tip if you do decide to take on a renovation job...baby steps. It took us awhile but we have finally realised that it is going to take time to get all of the decoration, curtains, furniture etc. in place and we cannot complete the entire house in a week.

This just means there is a little bit of excitement every month as new pieces arrive, carpets are laid or that print from Oliver Bonas is mounted on the wall. I now feel like a fully-fledged adult who is definitely in nesting mode...and I love every minute!

Where is your favourite place to shop for homeware pieces?

CHEESY TEAR 'N' SHARE BREAD RECIPE

Cheesy tear n share bread recipe
Christmas is 'a' coming and I for one am more than happy to start the festivities a little early. I eagerly await the John Lewis Christmas advert and Michael Buble's Christmas album is ready to take up permanent residence in the car...we may or may not have listened to it last week on our drive up to Northumberland for a little seaside break.

My love of Christmas is well known amongst my nearest and dearest and it is my favourite time of year to bake as you can get really creative. Hence why, over the next seven weeks I will be bringing you my signature Christmas bakes, starting with this savoury showstopper...cheesy, chilli tear 'n' share bread in the shape of a Christmas* wreath. It is the perfect centre piece for your festive parties.

*Christmas, Christmas, Christmas...could I have said Christmas anymore in two paragraphs?
Cheesy tear n share bread recipe
INGREDIENTS
500g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 packet or 1 1/2 tsp dried fast-action yeast
150g finely chopped fresh chillis
350ml lukewarm water
100g cheddar
75g finely grated parmesan cheese
1 1/2 tsp mixed herbs
1 1/2 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
50g melted butter
Sundried tomatoes to decorate

METHOD
  1. Put the flour, sugar, salt, yeast and chopped chillies into a large bowl. Make a well in the centre and pour in the 350ml of water. Mix together slowly until you have a slightly sticky dough. Turn out onto a lightly dusted surface and knead for around 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. 
  2. Drizzle a little olive oil into the mixing bowl then place the dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film and place in a warm place to prove for 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  3. Whilst the dough is proving, cut the cheddar into small cubes, about 1 cm in size. In a shallow dish mix the parmesan, herbs and rosemary together whilst in another shallow dish pour the melted butter.
  4. Grease and line a large baking sheet with greaseproof paper. Knock the proved dough and gently knead again until smooth and elastic. Divide into 25 even pieces.
  5. Working with one piece at a time, knead a little, place a cube of cheese in the centre and seal pinching the dough together with your fingers. Roll into a ball.
  6. Put a small ramekin dish in the centre of the baking sheet. Roll the dough balls in the butter and then in the parmesan mixture. Place the balls around the ramekin with a small gap between each ball and the dish to allow room during the second prove. Make a second circle around the first, again leaving a little space. 
  7. Cover loosely with lightly oiled cling film and leave for a second prove in a warm place for around 1 hour or until doubled in size.
  8. Preheat the oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Bake the wreath for 40-50 minutes, covering loosely with foil after 20/25 minutes to stop the cheese on the outside browning too much. 
  9. Leave to cool slightly for a few minutes, decorate with sundried tomatoes, fresh rosemary sprigs and serve warm. If serving later, leave to cool and then warm through just before serving. 
Cheesy tear n share bread recipe
Cheesy tear n share bread recipe
Serve with your chosen dip in the middle or, my personal favourite is alongside a freshly roasted ham, what could be more festive than that?

I hope you will give this bake a go! Please do share your photos with me on Instagram and Twitter

SMORES DIP RECIPE

If my sticky gingerbread cake recipe seemed a little daunting than this bonfire treat is perfect for you! It is incredibly easy to make, super indulgent and was, quite literally made to be eaten on bonfire night...or on a camping trip.

Melted chocolate, gooey marshmallows and a cracker or two make this delicious smores dip ideal for those who don't want to leave the warmth of their own home this Bonfire Night...or simply want to warm up after an evening watching the sky!
INGREDIENTS
150g chocolate chips
A bag of large marshmallows
Food of your choice to dip

METHOD
  1. Heat the oven to 200C. Pour the chocolate chips into an oven proof dish. Place the marshmallows on top of the chocolate chips in concentric circles.
  2. Place in the oven and cook for 8-10 minutes until the marshmallows have turned a golden brown colour on top.
Eat immediately whilst the mixture is melted and gooey. As you can tell my favourite way to eat this smores dip is with a spoon...although a dipped digestive tastes pretty incredible as well...

What would you dip in your Smores dip?

BONFIRE STICKY GINGERBREAD CAKE

Remember, remember the 5th of November...a night where it always rains and you are wrapped up in so many layers you resemble the Michelin man. Isn't it a great? This year we will be gathering at my brother's new house to celebrate with a (mini) bonfire, fireworks, hot dogs, jacket spuds and toasted marshmallows and definitely a cup or two of mulled wine...I can barely wait!

What's my contribution I hear you ask, this deliciously sticky and incredibly moreish gingerbread spice cake.
INGREDIENTS
200g black treacle
300g dark muscovado sugar
200g unsalted butter
2 large eggs, beaten
200g plain flour
1/2 zest of orange
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
225ml natural yoghurt

FOR THE TOPPING
75ml icing sugar
fresh pomegranate seeds

METHOD
  1. Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Grease a 20cm cake tin.
  2. Place the butter, treacle and sugar in a saucepan and gently heat until the butter and sugar have melted.
  3. Take off the heat and beat in the egg using a balloon whisk.
  4. Sieve the flour, bicarb of soda, ginger and cinnamon into a large bowl. Pour in the sugar and butter mixture and again mix using a balloon whisk until combined. Add the yoghurt and stir well until combined.
  5. Pour the mixture into the greased tin and place in the oven for 50 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. Place some foil over the cake halfway through cooking if it is starting to brown too much.
  6. Leave to cool in the tin for 30 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack to cool completely.
  7. For the topping place the icing sugar in a bowl and pour a little warm water, a tablespoon should be enough, into the bowl and mix well. Sparingly add more water until you have a thick runny icing.
  8. Drizzle the icing over the cake and scatter with pomegranate seeds. Leave for 20 minutes for the icing to set and then serve.
The warming flavours in this cake make it the perfect accompaniment for cold evenings and celebrations whether that is Bonfire Night, Halloween or Christmas!

A/W WISH LIST


Disclaimer; a number of items were purchased in the process of creating this wish list. 

I have always been a fan of and still love the laid back luxe style. Even if I was attending the Oscars I can guarantee that I still wouldn't look too 'done'. I seem to have an innate fear of anything that will make me look too put together; a few hairs (expertly) out of place here, a (perfectly applied) smudged smoky eye there and a bit of slinky silk with chunky knitwear and I am in my element. Whilst I love the undone look I am still a perfectionist therefore any hair out of place is exactly where it's supposed to be. Think of it like achieving the no makeup, makeup look, it's actually harder work than applying a full face with eyelashes but, put the effort in and the end result is beautiful.

It is no surprise that this wish list features a whole lot of comfort with a few standout luxury pieces. I am already daydreaming of layering the & Other Stories slip dress with the H&M knitted cardigan and Zara ankle boots...

What's on your A/W wish list?

HALLOWEEN TREACLE TART RECIPE

The Butter Treacle Tart recipe 2
If you've been here before you will be well aware of my love of Autumn/Winter, I love the cold crisp mornings and I adore all of the holidays, including Halloween...any excuse for a chance to dress up and eat ridiculous amounts of candy whilst hiding behind the pillow 'watching' a scary movie. (Please leave any scary movie suggestions below for this year!)

However you decide to celebrate All Hallows' Eve this ghoulishly dark sticky treacle tart is the perfect accompaniment and a dead cert to impress your guests.
The Butter Treacle Tart recipe 1
INGREDIENTS
250g plain flour
125g cold unsalted butter, diced
1 egg beaten, to glaze

FOR THE FILLING
40g unsalted butter
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 x 454g tin of golden syrup
50g black treacle
grated zest and juice of 1/2 orange
150g white breadcrumbs
3 tbsp. double cream
2 eggs beaten

METHOD
  1. First make the treacle tart pastry. Put the flour, diced butter and a pinch of salt in a bowl. Rub together by hand until the mixture looks and feels like breadcrumbs. Add just enough cold water to bring the pastry together as dough; a tablespoon at a time should be fine. Once combined, flatten the pastry ball into a disc, wrap it in cling film and put in the fridge to rest for 30 minutes.
  2. Lightly flour the surface and roll the pastry out to a circle around 33cm in diameter. Once rolled out carefully transfer to a deep, loose-bottomed 23in tart in. Trim of any excess pastry and set aside for the bat decoration. Prick the tart base with a fork. Again place the tart to chill in the fridge for 15 minutes whilst preheating the oven to 200C, fan 180C, gas 6. 
  3. Place a large sheet of baking paper inside the pastry case and weigh it down with baking beans, if you don't own baking beans copper coins work just as well! Place the tart tin on a baking tray, it makes it much easier to move in and out of the oven, and blind-bake for 15 minutes. 
  4. Roll out the pastry trimmings thinly and cut out the bat shapes to decorate. Place on a baking tray and put in the fridge to chill until needed.
  5. Remove the baking sheet and baking beans, brush the whole case with the beaten egg and bake for a further 5-10 minutes or until the case is golden and crisp. Take out of the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 180C, fan 160C, gas 4. 
  6. Now make the filling. Melt the butter in a saucepan until it is foaming. Then add the cinnamon and sea salt followed by the golden syrup and treacle. Stir together until runny, then remove from the heat and stir in the orange zest, juice and breadcrumbs. Then add the cream and beaten eggs. Stir until thoroughly combined. Carefully pour into the pastry case.
  7. Brush the bat decorations with a little beaten egg and lightly place on top of the tart as decoration.
  8. Place the tart in the oven and bake for 35 minutes or until the filling starts to puff up. Check halfway through and cover with foil if the pastry is starting to brown too much.
  9. Cool the baked treacle tart in the tin for at least 30 minutes before serving*. 
 *Best served with a big dollop of clotted cream.
The Butter Treacle Tart recipe
This may look like a lot of work and more a challenging bake but I promise it is thoroughly enjoyable and really not that difficult if you take your time and it is oh so worth the effort!

Come back next week as I have one more devilishly decadent treat to share...

50 SHADES OF...

CHOOSING THE RIGHT PAINT COLOUR

Grey, blue, white, pink, red...you've bought your first house and the prospect of being able to paint the walls any colour of your choice is unbelievably exciting. Trust me, after five years of renting some beautiful properties coated, and I mean coated, in the ever so popular shade of magnolia having a blank canvas to adorn was something I was very much looking forward too.

I knew I wanted bright, light, white walls with the injection of blush pink, cool greys and deep blues, easy right? Wrong! I wasn't so naive that I thought there was one shade per colour but the abundance of options is enough to make you question everything. Did we want Swedish White...Ash White...Rocksalt...Alpine...the list of whites on offer was endless, each with a different undertone, did we want a cool white, warm, ashy, cream. Spoiler...we chose Swedish White that actually didn't turn out quite right.

After adorning our walls with five or six shades of white we chose Swedish White, a bright white with blue/grey undertones, and quickly realised that it looked completely different in different rooms. Towards the front of the house (which happens to be north facing) it looks like a light duck egg blue, towards the back (south facing) it is a gorgeous soft white with a hint of grey. Notice the adjective? Swedish White is exactly what we wanted in the back end of our home and not so much in the front. This led me to do many searches on choosing the right paint colours so that we didn't make the same mistake with the rest of our colour choices. I thought I would share what I learnt in the hopes that I will help at least one person out there!


The advice that anyone and everyone will give you when painting a room is; "try a couple of different colours on different walls in the room and take note of how it appears at different times of the day as the lighting changes." This advice is golden and I of course followed is but sometimes there are THAT many options and at £4 a pot it's difficult to even narrow the shades down to a couple and if, like you me you do this, get them all home and find that none of them work, it becomes very expensive!

It all comes down to lighting (duh!) and the direction that your house faces drastically alters the lighting that you have in your house which in turn alters how paint colours appear in different rooms. The best bit of advice I can give you, is, to get your hands on a compass (app) and find out which direction your house is facing. Once I had done this choosing paint colours got a whole lot easier. Below are some tips that I gained from Farrow & Ball, Dulux and the odd ever so helpful store employee.

NORTH FACING

A North facing house (which happens to be the direction that my house is facing) is the hardest to decorate as the lighting can be quite dark and cool. Hence why colours with a blue undertone appear bluer than the actual colour you have bought. If you want to use lighter colours stay away from any with a green or grey undertone. Stick to colours with a yellow base and cream neutrals to bounce a lot of light around.

Alternatively embrace the natural dark of the room and choose a strong dark grey or blue to create a striking effect.

EAST FACING

The lighting in east facing rooms can tend to be a little blue, work with this and choose green or blue colours, light or dark, either will work wonders.

SOUTH FACING

If your house is south facing, breathe a big sigh of relief, it will be an absolute joy to decorate as the quality of light means that any colour will work. Cool, warm whichever route you want to take it will look good and appear just as you expect.

WEST FACING

When it comes to west facing rooms it is helpful to think about how you will use the room as they tend to have cooler light in the mornings working up to a warmer more dramatic lighting in the evenings. Farrow & Ball suggest using whites as they are natural light reflectors, will work with any colour furnishing and will naturally enhance both the natural and artificial lighting in a west facing room.

Whilst I won't be changing my chosen Swedish White anytime soon, I have taken all of the above into consideration for the rooms that still need painting and when I come round to redecorating I will be prepared! It's our first time renovating and decorating a house, from top to bottom I might add, we are bound to make a few mistakes along the way, at least I can share these mistakes and hopefully help you from making them too!

GINGERBREAD CUPCAKE RECIPE

I first baked these beauties around Christmas time last year and they have become somewhat of a signature bake. A warming gingerbread spiced cupcake with an oh so sweet (and salty) salted caramel frosting. They are, quite simply, delicious and much like a Starbuck's pumpkin spiced latte they taste and smell just like autumn/Christmas.

September to December is my favourite time of year, I love everything about it. The cool, crisp days, the chunky knits and ankle boots, long walks with a Sunday roast in front of the fire, Halloween, Bonfire Night, getting cosy on the sofa with winter telly, decadent eating and of course Christmas! After a mediocre summer here in England I am very much looking forward to 'hunkering down for the winter' and the first treat I wanted to share with you are these autumn in a cupcake case cupcakes.

INGREDIENTS

200g golden caster sugar
140g unsalted butter
60g black treacle
60g golden syrup
2 large eggs
300g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp salt
240ml milk, warmed through

FOR THE SALTED CARAMEL FROSTING

125g caster sugar
80ml double cream
1/2 tsp rock salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
160g salted butter, softened

METHOD

  1. Line a muffin tray with 12 cupcake cases and preheat the oven to 190C.
  2. Beat the butter and sugar together until light and creamy. Add the treacle, syrup and eggs then beat well until fully combined.
  3. In a separate bowl sift together the flour, ginger, nutmeg, baking powder and salt. Warm the milk in a saucepan, be careful not to burn, then add half the flour mixture and half the warmed milk to the butter mixture and beat. Add the remaining flour mixture and milk and beat well until combined and smooth.
  4. Spoon the mixture into the cupcake cases and bake for 20-25 minutes or until well risen and lightly firm to the touch. Allow to cool for five minutes in the tray and then set aside to cool on a wire rack.
  5. Whilst the cupcakes are cooling make the salted caramel buttercream. To make the salted caramel from scratch; heat the caster sugar and four tablespoons of water in a saucepan over a gentle heat until the sugar has dissolved, then increase the heat and cook the caramel for 2-3 minutes, or until golden and slightly thickened. Once this has been achieved remove from the heat immediately and stir in the cream (be careful as the caramel may splutter when the cream is added). Stir in the salt and vanilla and set aside to cool completely.
  6. Beat the butter until it is white and fluffy, and then add half the icing sugar and beat well until combined. Add the remaining icing sugar; beat on a high speed for 4-5 minutes until thick and fluffy. Then add the caramel and beat until combined. 
  7. Pipe onto the cakes and decorate.
I found these little gingerbread men in Marks & Spencer but you could always make your own, which I will be doing around Christmas time, or simply sprinkle the cupcakes with a little ginger. I will be making these again over the next few months and I hope you will too!

CHEESE AND PESTO BREAD

I don't bake savoury treats all too often which is a little odd as I am a bona fide carb lover. I cannot stay away from them no matter how hard I try. Therefore I have set myself a little channel to branch out into this area and brush up on my bread, pastry and general savoury baked goods skills.

For my first attempt I borrowed my mum's cheesy, chilli bread recipe that I have happily been consuming since a child, and swapped out a few of the ingredients to create these cheese pesto and sundried tomato whirls. Ideal for a lunch box, picnic pack up or simply to nibble on at home!

INGREDIENTS 

450g strong white bread flour
7g sachet of dried yeast
1 tsp golden caster sugar
150g fresh pesto
100g grated mozzarella
2 tbsp. olive oil
240g sundried tomatoes
50g parmesan
handful of basil leaves

METHOD

  1. Add the flour, yeast, sugar and 1 1/2 tsp salt to a large mixing bowl.  
  2. Measure 280ml warm water; add to the flour mixture alongside the olive oil. Mix together until the mixture starts to clump together as a dough, if it seems a little dry add another 10ml of water. 
  3. Once the mixture is combined, lightly flour the work surface and knead for around 10 minutes. The dough is ready once it feels springy, elastic and has come together smoothly.
  4. Clean the mixing bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film and set aside to prove and double in size. Depending on the temperature where the dough is placed this should take 1-3 hours.
  5. Line a baking tray with parchment. Uncover the dough and punch down to knock out the air bubbles. Flour the work surface once again and tip the dough out. If the dough is sticky dust with a little flour also.
  6.  Roll the dough into a large rectangle shape until the dough is roughly an inch thick.
  7. Spread the pesto over the dough, scatter the tomatoes, both cheeses and basil evenly. 
  8. From one of the longer sides roll the dough into a long sausage shape.
  9. Cut the dough into 12 even pieces then place on the baking tray, cut side up. 6 pieces to a baking tray, tuck the open end of each roll into the middle to avoid the bread uncoiling during baking.
  10. Leave a little space between as they will double in size again during the second proving. Loosely cover with cling film and leave to prove for 30 minutes-1 hour.
  11. Heat oven to 200C, once the bread has doubled, place in the oven and cook for 35 minutes or until golden brown.
  12. Remove from the oven, leave to cool and tuck in. 
There are quite a few steps to this recipe but putting the proving time aside it is actually quite simple and totally worth it. I happily had these for lunch for two days running and my family quickly ate up the rest!

As always if you do make them please share your photos with me on Twitter or Instagram.

WE BOUGHT A HOUSE

If you follow me on any of my social media channels or indeed are a regular reader of my blog you will be well aware that we bought a house (!) I have been not so subtly harping on about it for quite a few months now. As I write this we are two days away from finally moving into a house that we have had the privilege of putting our very own, rather large, stamp on.

We bought this end terrace, Victorian property in January this year, we knew it was a 'fixer upper' and that prospect excited us. However when we exchanged contracts and took our first wander through our new home, sans furniture, we realised if we were going to fix it up it needed to be done right and a little more work was required. Every room was taken back to brick, it has been completely re-wired, has new plumbing, we removed walls, bricked up doorways, created new doorways, changed the layout, new floors, old floors revamped, new windows; we have done everything you can think of and it has been an extremely exciting, slightly nerve wracking, very educational experience and I can finally see the light at the end of our renovation tunnel. I am going to do full before and after posts as each room is finished, or as finished as it is ever going to be!
At the top of our wish list was a large open kitchen/diner; where we could cook, entertain, relax and to generally be the heart of the home. This house did not have that but we saw a way that we could create it. Cue three walls removed, the kitchen moved into the old dining room and the old, rather small kitchen has become the dining room. This space is incredible, it is so bright, spacious and I can already tell the majority of our time will be spent here. The counter tops were fitted to our kitchen yesterday and I am obsessed! I know I said I was going to do a full before and after but I had to share this little sneak peek of the kitchen as it stands...
The windows in the first picture are new wooden windows, the previous windows, also wood, had been in for thirteen years and had started to rot. The day the bay window was replaced I could have cried it made such a difference and I cannot wait to put our first Christmas tree in this space. Yup, the Christmas elf that I am is already thinking about the festive period...just think of the soirees we can have in this kitchen!
These are definitely not the prettiest photos that I have uploaded to this blog but for now they are by far my favourite. I have enjoyed every minute of this process, apart from the odd seconds where I got impatient and 'just wanted to move in already'. We still have a lot to do before it is fully finished, we have carpets to fit, furniture to arrive, accessories to buy, gardening, gardening and more gardening and a little bit of painting but the bulk of the work is done and I cannot wait to share the finalised look with you.

I mentioned previously that this has been educational...I have learnt SO much about houses in general, the process of buying a house, tips for brightening a house, tips for choosing the right paint colours for north, south, east, west facing rooms (a whole post to come on this soon), the right carpet for the right space. There are so many big and so many tiny decisions to make and me being me I couldn't make any of them without fully researching my options first. Everything has been thought through, right down to the door knobs.

If you can't wait for the full reveal head over to Pinterest it will give you a pretty good idea of our taste and the look that we are trying to achieve. Think bright, light, lots of whites and greys using accessories and art to add pops of colour.

If there is anything that you would like more information on when it comes to buying, renovating, decorating house, let me know in the comments or tweet me your questions, I would love to help!

© BUTTER

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