February 2018 marks the 7th anniversary of my eating adventures and, as ever, I'm excited about what the coming months will bring for us foodies! In case this is your first visit (if not, welcome back), I'm a 30-something female with a very healthy appetite!...I promise to share with you my experience of each restaurant, café or bar in which I set foot...so, let's go out!

Friday, 15 February 2013

A Labour of Love – Edible Gifts for Valentine’s Day

Given my self-appointed status as a kitchen-shy twenty-something, as well as the fact that this entire blog encompasses my distinct lack of culinary expertise, the writings that follow may shock you...(mum, I hope you're sitting down for this). Inspired to create a range of Valentine’s Day-themed confectioneries for my loved ones, coupled with the overwhelming desire to prove that, smarter than the average blonde, I'm not *completely *useless in the kitchen, I spent a good few hours whisking, weighing and assembling a plethora of edibles to rival afternoon tea at the Merry Berry residence, (well, kind of)...Thus, without further ado, the fruits of my labour are as follows:

Cherry Rock Cakes

125g butter
125g caster sugar
500g plain flour
1.5 tablespoons baking powder
25ml milk
1 large egg
250ml water
175g cherries (I used glacé cherries and cut them into halves)
Cinnamon/Mixed spices to taste

1.Preheat oven to 200 degrees C / gas mark 6. Grease two large baking trays or line with parchment paper
2.Cream butter and sugar together with an electric mixer.
3.Add flour and baking powder; mix in well.
4.Add milk, egg and water...continue to mix well.
5.Add cherries and sprinkle in the cinnamon/mixed spices...again, mix well (by now you should be well and truly feeling the burn…!)
6.Dollop even portions of dough (not too closely together) on the lined baking trays.
7.Bake for 15 minutes or until cooked through.
8.Cool on wire rack and serve warm, or ignore this step and eat straight from the oven (burning your mouth in the process).
Sweet Heart Biscuits

90g unsalted butter, softened
90g caster sugar
1 medium egg at room temperature
A liberal splash or two of vanilla essence
240g plain (all-purpose flour), plus extra for dusting
To decorate: Icing sugar, plus suitable embellishment

1.Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C / gas mark 4. Grease two large baking trays or line with parchment paper
2.Cream the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy
3.Add the egg and vanilla essence and beat well – don’t worry of the mixture curdles slightly, just add a tablespoon of the flour and mix well
4.Sift the flour and fold into the mixture (or, in the absence of a sieve, thrown it in and hope for the best) – the aim is to achieve a stiff dough
NB. I had to press the mixture together with my hands and, getting very messy in the process, added a little water in order to make it stick. If you find that the dough is too soft to roll out, refrigerate for 20 minutes and have a cup of tea…
5.Roll out the dough on a cool, lightly flour surface and, using a heart-shaped cookie cutter, cut out as many hearts as possible.
6.Lift on to the baking sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the hearts turn a very pale golden colour
7.Once cool, decorate with as much bumph as you can stomach (figuratively speaking and quite literally!)

Cherry Loaf Cake

170g margarine or butter
170g caster sugar
200g cherries (again, I used glacé cherries and cut them into halves)
55g ground almond
110g self raising flour
3 Eggs
Splash of milk
Ready-to-roll marzipan (for decoration)

1.Cream the butter or margarine with the sugar
2.Beat in the eggs and milk with a whisk (electric or hand depending on upper body strength)
3.Stir in the ground almond and cherries – I dusted the cherries with a little flour to prevent them sinking to the bottom of the cake (I think my mum taught me this and to be honest, I have no idea if it works…)
4.Fold in the self raising flour until mixture is of an admirable consistency (not too runny not too stiff)
5.Line a loaf tin with greaseproof parchment paper and fill with mixture
6.Place in preheated oven at 180 degrees C / gas mark 4 and cook for about 45 mins or until a cocktail stick emerges free from uncooked cake!
7.Once the cake has cooled, roll out the marzipan to the desired thickness and cut to size. I decorated the finished article with a liberal arrangement of (inedible) heart-shaped sequins but let’s face it, given the territory, you can be as creative (or as minimalistic) as you wish.
In conclusion, I know that it’s cringe-worthily cliché but when it comes to knocking up the odd home-made gift, if I can do it, anyone can...Despite the fact that a brief flirtation with the M&S food-hall would have ultimately saved a great deal of time and effort, it wouldn't have been as fun, (stuck behind a host of techno-phobic elderly folk attempting to use the self-serve checkout?....No thank you very much!) It also couldn't have possibly warranted the same sense of self-satisfied joy whereby you inform anyone who'll listen that; ‘I made them myself you know…', that the few hours spent in the kitchen most definitely allowed for. Yes, there was a little improvisation here and there – who knew that a rolling pin was such an essential piece of kit and that an empty wine bottle really doesn't make for a suitable alternative? That said, the experience really did encourage a new-found affinity with my kitchen which my nearest and dearest will be pleased to learn, bodes well for their sweet-toothed needs in the months and years to come...

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