Paper cuts – the good kind!

hedgehog

hedgehog – not bad for a beginner

I am a big fan of paper cut art, particularly the amazing Rob Ryan. After spending a lot of time staring at other people’s work I decided to give it a go, and found this great beginners kit from another artist, Paper Panda, which comes with absolutely everything you need to give it a go: Introduction to Papercutting DIY Pack – Includes Equipment OVER 18’s ONLY / Paper Panda.

squiggle

squiggle

So far I am only part way through the practice designs, but I can’t wait to give the proper ones a go! Who knows, maybe this time next year I will be cutting out my own designs – its certainly inspiring.

cut it out

cut it out

(all photo credits miss suzylee)

Easy no-bake Oreo cheesecakes

Oreos

Oreos

This recipe is perfect for when you need to rustle up a quick dessert, or if you aren’t very confident with baking cheesecake. I know from bitter experience that the base of a cheesecake is harder to make than it looks, and as soon as you slice into it the whole thing can fall apart! This recipe makes several smaller cheesecakes in individual pots so there is no need to worry about slicing. Also, unlike other ‘quick’ cheesecake recipes I have seen, this one really is – you can make it and pop it in the fridge just before you serve the main course and it will be ready to eat by the time you have finished. No need to chill overnight!

It would also be a great dessert for valentines day, especially if you can find a heart shaped pot like these to make it in: Stoneware Heart Ramekins – Le Creuset. It is so quick to make you can then relax and enjoy the evening!

Ingredients:

  • 150ml double cream
  • 150g Philadelphia cream cheese
  • good shake of icing sugar
  • pack of Oreo cookies

You will also need about 6 ramekins/teacups/small pots.

Method:

  1. First, you need to break up the Oreo cookies. I used a pestle and mortar, but you can bash them up inside their packet using a rolling pin or other heavy implement!

    pestle and mortar

    pestle and mortar

  2. Put a little of the ground cookies to one side (to sprinkle on top later) and divide the rest between the ramekins so that the base of each has a good covering. Push it down a bit to form a slightly firmer base (the cream of the cookies will help them stick together, so you don’t need to add butter as you often do when making a cheesecake base).

    cheesecake bases

    cheesecake bases

  3. Whip the double cream in a bowl until it forms soft peaks, then add the cream cheese and a good shake of icing sugar and beat it all together. Taste a bit and add a bit more icing sugar if you want it sweeter.
  4. Spoon the cream mixture over the cheesecake base (you can spread it out, leave it as a dollop or however you want to do it) then sprinkle the remaining ground cookies on the top.
  5. Pop in the fridge for as little or as long as you like – the longer you leave it, the firmer the cream topping will be but I found it perfectly fine after an hour.

    Oreo cheesecakes

    Oreo cheesecakes

(all photo credits miss suzylee)

Gluten free baking mixes

I usually don’t bother with pre-mixed packets of cake or bread as I feel you are paying a premium just to save the effort of weighing ingredients out (a job I actually enjoy doing!) but with a gluten free friend coming to stay over Christmas I decided it might be worth giving them a shot – otherwise I tend to buy in lots of gluten free flour etc that mostly gets wasted.

I found a fairly local company called Delicious Alchemy and decided to order a few things online in advance of the visit: Gluten Free Products by Delicious Alchemy – buy online.

delicious alchemy

delicious alchemy

First up: gluten free oats. This may sound strange as oats are naturally gluten free, however the way they are processed and packaged can cause contamination and my friend has found she cannot eat normal oats. These gluten free ones however were fine for her, which meant we could make delicious porridge, muesli and flapjack – so that was breakfast sorted!

Next we tried the bread mix:

gluten free bread

gluten free bread

The instructions were clear and easy to follow, and with the help of my trusty kitchenaid also fairly quick, although you could knead the mix by hand otherwise. As you can see the mix does not rise very much, but this is typical of gluten free baking so don’t worry about that. In terms of taste and texture my friend assures me this bread is perfectly normal and ends up quite similar to the packaged gluten free bread found in the supermarket. For me this let it down a bit, as I had hoped it would taste a little moister and fresher than those pre-packaged breads – but it was fun to make! A word of warning if you haven’t eaten gluten free bread before ( as I hadn’t), it is a very different beast to ‘normal’ bread so you may need to amend your expectations!

Finally we played with the final package that I had most been looking forward to – the brownie mix!

gluten free brownies

gluten free brownies

To be fair you can’t really go wrong with brownies, and its not hard to make them gluten free from scratch. However if someone isn’t a keen baker this certainly makes it a lot easier, with no faffing around remembering to buy all the ingredients. The instructions were clear, it was quick to make and tasted delicious (especially with some cream and raspberries on top!). It was much nicer and gooey-ier than the shop bought gluten free brownies so certainly worth a try.

(all photo credits miss suzylee)

Summer fruit crumble

A healthy(ish) dessert for beating the January blues… without breaking too many resolutions! No cake, pastry or chocolate involved here amazingly – and the cream is optional (but delicious). Its also really easy to make it gluten free.

winter sun

winter sun

Crumbles are amazing winter comfort food, all stodgy and full of flavour, but this one uses summer berries to remind us that winter won’t be around for ever! You can of course use whatever fruit you wish, but I used a mixture of strawberries and raspberries for a really sunny hit.

Ingredients

  • approx 500g fruit (I used a mixture of strawberries and raspberries)
  • tablespoon of brown or golden caster sugar
  • 2o0g plain flour (I made this gluten free by using gluten free plain flour instead)
  • 30g ground almonds (or you could miss out this ingredient and add an extra 30g of flour)
  • 110g butter, cubed
  • 75g soft brown sugar
fruit

fruit

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C/160 for fan/gas mark 4 and find an ovenproof container to make the crumble in (pyrex or enamel dishes work well, I love the look of the enamel dish).
  2. Put the fruit into a large bowl (raspberries can go in whole, but either half or quarter the strawberries into similar size pieces), sprinkle over the tablespoon of sugar and gently stir and then spread over the base of the dish.

    sugary fruit!

    sugary fruit!

  3. Put the flour and butter into a large bowl and rub together with your fingertips to make ‘breadcrumbs’ then add the sugar and ground almonds and mix together.
  4. Sprinkle the topping over the fruit and press it down a little, then pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes depending on how crispy you like the topping to be.

    summer crumble in winter

    summer crumble in winter

  5. Serve warm – usually I would serve custard with a crumble, but I think this one tastes best with cream or yogurt to go with the summery flavours. Enjoy!

(all photo credits misssuzylee)

Gingerbread cookies

Gingerbread cookies

Gingerbread cookies

These cookies are AMAZING. Warning: they are also addictive and will not last long as a result…

Miss Suzylee’s Gingerbread Cookies

Ingredients:

350 g plain flour

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

2 teaspoons ground ginger (add a little more if you like a stronger taste)

1 teaspoon mixed spice (again feel free to add a little more)

100 g unsalted butter

175 g light brown sugar

3 tablespoons of golden syrup

1 large free range egg, beaten

Method:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees c/170 degrees c for fan assisted, and line as many baking sheets as you have with baking parchment! I only have one big one and two small ones, so I had to bake the cookies in several batches.

2. Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ginger and mixed spice into a large mixing bowl and rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Stir in the sugar and make a well in the centre.

3. Add the syrup and the egg to the well in the mixture and combine the ingredients together  until well mixed and it forms a firm dough.

4. Roll out the dough to a thickness of no more than 0.5 cm and then cut out using a cookie cutter – I used a star cutter as it was for Christmas, but you could equally use any shape you fancy. It will make a lot of cookies, but of course the number will depend on the size of cookie cutter you use (probably around 50 using a 5cm diameter star cutter).

5. Place carefully on the prepared baking sheets, prick lightly with a fork and then bake for 10-12 minutes until firm and golden. This could take a while if  you have to bake in as many batches as I did! Once golden leave on the baking sheet for 5 minutes to cool, and then transfer to a cooling rack to finish cooling.

These made a lovely gift when presented in a festive patterned cellophane bag, and should last for a few days (in theory at least, but mine were all eaten or given away as presents before then!)

(all photo credits miss suzylee)

 

Bonfire Night Parkin

IMG_2087

I love Bonfire Night – the pretty fireworks that make a whole crowd go ‘ooooohhh’, the smell of the bonfire (wood smoke is an all time favourite smell), dressing up warm and snuggly in boots and scarves and gloves and most importantly, getting to eat the traditional foods – soup, hotdogs, toffee apples, cinder toffee and my favourite, parkin.

Fireworks

Fireworks

Parkin is one of those lovely squidgy, moist cakes that taste best when you make it a few days ahead, but fresh from the oven is fine too if you’ve left it to the last minute! Its delicious on its own, but also great with custard. It has a unique texture from the oats in it, and a very strong, dark, spicy flavour – if you haven’t tried it before do it now, and home made is so much better than shop bought!

Ingredients

110g (4 oz) self-raising flour

2tbsp ground ginger (yes that’s right, tablespoons!)

½ tsp ground nutmeg

½ tsp mixed spice

75g (3oz) oatmeal (this is finer than porridge oats, closer to ReadyBrek but not quite that fine)

175g (6oz) golden syrup

50g (2oz) black treacle

110g (4 oz) unsalted butter

110g (4 oz) soft brown sugar

1 free range egg, beaten

2 tbsp milk

Method

1. Pre-heat the oven to 140C (120C fan)/275F/Gas 1.

2. Butter a 20cm (8 inch) square cake tin. I also part lined mine, just to make sure the bottom would come out easily but it should be okay without doing this.

3. Sieve the flour, a pinch of salt, the ginger, nutmeg and mixed spice together into a large bowl, then mix in the oatmeal.

4. Put the syrup, treacle, butter and soft brown sugar into a small saucepan and melt over a gentle heat – bring up to a simmer but do not boil.

5. Stir the treacle mixture into the flour mixture, and then mix in the beaten egg and milk to create a soft, almost pouring, consistency.

IMG_2083

6. Pour into the buttered tin and bake for 1 1/4 hours, until firm in the centre. Test with a skewer to see if it comes out clean.

IMG_2085

7. Remove from the oven and leave in the tin for 5-10 minutes before turning out and cutting into squares.

IMG_2089

(all photo credits miss suzylee)

Movember baking

Movember bake sale

Movember bake sale

Movember is a great cause, and even if you aren’t able to grow a mo there’s always other ways to raise money and awareness. Check out Movember United Kingdom – Home.

A bake sale is always a popular idea, in my office at least.

Not sure what I will make this year, but this is my previous offering – a cherry bakewell cupcake cheekily decorated to represent Movember! Cherry bakewell is one of my favourite dessert flavours, whether its a proper bakewell pudding, a shop made bakewell tart or these cupcakes. Next up I need to try making a cherry bakewell ice-cream…

You can find a good recipe for these cupcakes at BBC – Food – Recipes : Cherry Bakewell cupcakes. Then you have the fun bit, which is to decorate them – for a bake sale presentation is key, and I thought these chaps really looked the part! Obviously the glace cherries make a great nose, but the rest of the face is up to you – I used an icing pen with a piping nozzle, but you could use normal icing in a piping bag, or get creative!

(all photo credits miss suzylee)