A friend asked me to make a Guardian for her, and she found this lovely frame for me to put it in. I was just playing with my photographs of the finished piece and stumbled upon this ghostly image. I heart it.
The urge to bake comes to me in waves and right now I think I must be at its very peak. Luckily I am surrounded by people that are happy to gobble up all this food that I keep producing so I am not swamped by sad mountains of uneaten baked goods. Though it is at times like this I convince myself that nothing would make me happier than to start up a cake van (like an ice-cream van but selling scrummy baked goods instead). The problem is that I fear the reality would not be quite as rosy as the scenario in my head. So I make do with feeding those around me in sporadic bursts of sweet goodness.
Last weekend I had my first attempt at making flapjacks. It was cold and rainy outside and I could think of nothing better to make than those, filled with giant oats and spices and fruit (above). And it made my flat smell delicious. They tasted extremely good - so good in fact that we couldn't actually wait for them to cool down and got in a bit of a sticky mess eating them curled under a blanket on the sofa. But even when they had cooled they were still a bit sticky, so I am going to adjust the recipe a little before I share it with you.
I am however more than happy to give you the recipe for my chocolate chip shortbread biscuits, since I have made them oodles of times and they are by now most definitely tried and tested. I made a batch last night and they didn't disappoint: rich, crumbly and dangerously moreish...you have been warned!
Chocolate Chip Shortbread Biscuits
(Makes about 20 smallish biscuits, but it all depends on the size of your cookie cutters!)
175g butter (I prefer to use salted butter)
75g golden caster sugar
250g plain flour (and some extra for shaping the dough)
200g chocolate chips (I use half milk chocolate and half white chocolate)
1. Make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature to start off with (get them out a couple of hours before). Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
2. Cream together the butter and sugar until smooth.
3. Mix in the flour - at first it will look like crumble topping, and this is the best time to mix in the chocolate chips. Then keep mixing and it will pull together to make a dough (though it is a crumbly, dryish dough). Wrap the ball of dough in clingfilm and pop it in the fridge for half an hour or so (or longer). I find this makes it hold together better and it is then easier to work with.
4. Dusta smooth clean surface with a little flour, along with the dough and the rolling pin. When the dough comes out of the fridge it will be quite hard so knead it in your hands a little to make it more pliable. Then roll it out until it is about 1cm thick. If you don't have a rolling pin just press the dough out with your palms. Cut the dough into whatever shape you fancy - it will be easier to use a sharp metal cutter so it can slice through the chocolate chips. Pull together the scraps and roll them out again to cut another set of biscuits, dusting with more flour as before, and repeat this until all the dough has been shaped.
5. Space the biscuits out on a baking sheet (if the tin doesn't have a really good non-stick coating, you are best to line it with baking parchment so the cookies don't stick). They don't need an awful lot of space as they will not spread very much, but leave a little room between them - if you want to be on the safe side, bake them in a few separate batches. They will take about 15 minutes, just until they start to turn a very pale golden colour (don't over-bake them as you will lose the crumbly texture). Leave them on the tray for a couple of minutes when they come out of the oven, then transfer them onto a wire rack to cool. They can be frozen, or kept in a tin for a few days, but are best eaten when they are fresh and still a little warm, the chocolate still soft. Yum.
There is something I find extraordinarily romantic about keys (the old fashioned sort of course). Especially when they have been lost and found. They conjure up thoughts of secret gardens and hidden rooms; of intrigue and adventure and possibility. What's not to like about that?
And so a key is what I stitched to give as my most recent gift. It is from a pattern I made a while ago, but I think it looks particularly lovely in black and white.
At some point I hope to make up a little collection of them to hang together. For now though I shall leave it to you to imagine where this one might lead...
Once upon a time there was a girl. She fell in love with a boy and they ate blueberry muffins for breakfast after the happiest of times. When they were together there was a magic that made everything else fade away, leaving nothing but the two of them. But it was not to last.
The boy was stolen away by circumstance and in his place came another, full of sadness and fury, who left the girl alone.
Every now and then the first boy would reappear, but his visits were fleeting, and became rarer and rarer until all that was left was a shadow of what could have been. The girl lost all hope of seeing her boy again and started afresh, filling her life with new things.
But then came a night when he returned, without warning, truer than ever, and she remembered the enchanted times that had come before. She knew it was him because he reminded her about the blueberry muffins. She was so surprised by this sudden glimpse of the boy she used to know that she lost her words (a fate that had never befallen her until that night), and listened until her eyes closed and she slept the peaceful kind of sleep that only comes when things are as they should be.
The next day she got up and made blueberry muffins. It just seemed like the thing to do. And despite all that had been lost they still tasted of happiness and magic, and hopefully always will.
Blueberry & White Chocolate Muffins
(Makes 12 large muffins)
400g self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
225g golden caster sugar
125g butter (I prefer to use salted butter)
4 small eggs (or 3 larger ones!)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
200g frozen blueberries
200g white chocolate chunks
1. Pre-heat the oven to around 180 degrees and fill a 12-muffin pan with paper cases.
2. Melt the butter in a pan and then cream the butter and sugar together in a large bowl.
3. Add in the flour and baking powder, along with the eggs (beat them in advance if you like, though I personally don't bother), and mix it all together, pouring in the milk as you go, until you are left with a soft dropping consistency.
4. Stir in the vanilla extract, and then the chocolate chunks. Finally, gently fold in the blueberries until they are evenly spread throughout the mixture. Try not to over mix them, as they will turn the entire lot purple! Some streaks are inevitable though so don't worry too much - I actually think it makes them look nicer.
5. Spoon the mixture between the cases (they should be about three quarters full) and pop them in the oven for about 20-25 minutes, until they start to look a little golden and are springy to the touch. Leave them to cool in the tin for a few minutes, then transfer them to a wire rack. They're especially good eaten warm, and are lovely for breakfast.