Apple jelly

When we moved into our house there were a small little apple tree one corner of the garden. The first year we lived there it produced about three apples. Fast forward eight years and the tree hasn’t grown much {it keeps getting battered it in the wind and seems to have decided it’s safer to hide behind the fence}, the crop on the other hand has increased tremendously – this year we got about three large bowlfuls!  IMG_2806_small

After a few apple crumbles I started thinking about what else I could use all the apples for. They were a bit tart so the kids weren’t keen on just eating them, however I remember having bought some lovely apple jelly a few years ago.  A quick google came up with several good recipes, in the end I settled for one by David Lebovitz.

When making jelly you need a jelly strainer, to strain the fruit juices from the fruit pulp. I was only able to find a jelly strainer bag and not a stand, which the bag is usually attached to and placed on top of a bowl. The instructions for the strainer bag did suggest attaching a hook underneath a shelf to hang the bag from. Our kitchen cabinets are ridiculously low though, and I didn’t fancy attaching a hook to them, so I improvised and stuck a wooden spoon between the handles of two of the cabinets and hung the bag from it – it worked a treat!

If you can’t find a strainer bag, a clean muslin or tea towel can be used – one site recommended sterilising it by ironing it then lining a mesh sieve or just tie the ends into a knot and find a way of hanging it – do note that the apple pulp tends to be quite heavy, so it needs to be hung from something that can carry the weight.

Apple jelly

Apple jelly

2 kg apples
900g sugar
1 lemon, juice only
water to cover the apples

1) Rinse the apples and cut them into chunks, removing any bruised bits. There is no need to peel them first, or to remove the pips – just add it all to a large stock pot {I ended up having to use the two largest pots I had, neither which are proper stock pots, as I had so many apples}
2) Cover the apples with water, cover and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, leave the lid askew, or take it off, and simmer the apples for about 30 minutes, until they are soft.
3) Place the jelly strainer over a large bowl and ladle the apple and liquid into the jelly bag. Most recipes recommend to leave overnight or at least 3 hours. I left mine for about 3 hours and by the end of that time there was no more liquid coming though. It’s important to NOT try to push the fruit down to extract more juice as this will result in a cloudy jelly.
4) Measure out the strained liquid and add 150g sugar per 250ml juice. Add the juice, sugar and lemon juice to a pot and bring to a boil. I found that jelly takes a lot longer to set than jam – some more lemon juice would possibly have helped it set faster, but I only had one lemon at the time. The jelly should set at 104C however, at this point mine was still a runny mess. About half an hour later {at least!} and after about a third of the liquid had reduced mine finally set. David Lebovitz mentions his took time to set as well, his didn’t didn’t set until at 110C, and although mine started setting at 108C I left it to 110C just to be sure it wouldn’t be too loose.
If you don’t have a candy or digital thermometer, spoon a little bit onto a chilled saucer {I kept a few in the freezer while I was making the jelly to keep them chilled}. Return the saucer to the freezer for a minute or so and then run a finger gently through the jelly – if it wrinkles it’s set and is ready to pour into jars,  skiming away any white scum that rises to the surface beforehand. {I found it easiest to do this once I had taken the saucepan off the heat}
5) Make sure you have sterilised you jars by washing them in hot soapy water, rinse with hot water then place in a low oven (about 100C) to dry and sterilise. Take one jar out of the oven at the time when you are ready to add the jelly to them.
6) Ladle the jelly into jars and screw the lids on tightly. I ended up with 5.5 jars of varying sizes, the largest ones probably held approximately 300ml.

The jelly is lovely with pork, as an alternative to the traditional apple sauce, or with cheese and biscuits.

Apple and jelly


Little strawberry and marzipan cakes

As mentioned a while ago, there are a lot of summer birthdays in my family. I never had a chance to make my hubby a cake on his birthday, but I made these little cakes the following weekend instead.
Little strawberry and marzipan cakes
When making the pirate cake for my son, I had opened a packet of marzipan instead of icing by mistake. Not wanting to waste the marzipan, I made little strawberry cakes wrapped in marzipan – inspired by the traditional Swedish Princess cake {which I made last year for my son’s birthday}. Very simple but pretty little cakes!
Mini strawberry and marzipan cakes
Little strawberry and marzipan cakes

3 eggs
200 ml sugar
2 tbsp water
200 ml flour
1.5 tsp baking powder
200 ml whipping cream
100 ml custard (ready made or from powder)
1 tbsp strawberry jam
strawberries to decorate, 1-2 per cake
about 250g marzipan + a few drops of red food colouring  (enough for 4 cakes, use more if making more cakes)

1) Preheat the oven to 200C and line a deep baking tray or large roasting tin with greaseproof paper.
2) Beat eggs and sugar until pale and fluffy.
3) Add the water, flour and baking powder and gently combine.
4) Pour onto the baking tray and bake for about 5 mins or until golden.
5) Leave to cool, then cut out circles with a cookie cutter or a glass, about 5 cm / 2 inches wide. You’ll need three discs for each cake.
6) Whip the cream, and mix about a third of it with them custard.
7) Spread the bottom layer of the cake with the jam and then add some custard cream on top.
8) Add the middle cake layer and spread it with whipped cream before adding the top layer and a final thin layer of cream.
9) Add the food colouring to the marzipan and knead it until it’s evenly coloured. Roll out the marzipan until a few millimeters thick.
10) Measure how high the cake is and cut out a ribbon of marzipan the same height and wrap around the cake. Trim off any excess. Repeat for all the cakes.
11) Slice the strawberries and decorate the cakes.

Arrr, pirate cake!

My youngest is all into pirates at the moment and keeps running about shouting “ahoy, pirate ship” {he hasn’t quite figured out there is a difference between ‘pirates’ and ‘pirate ships’!}. For his recent birthday, a pirate theme was a given!

I wanted to make him a pirate cake and when doing some research I found some truly amazing pirate cakes in the shape of three dimensional pirate ships and treasure chests. I’ve never been good with 3D cakes though, instead I decided on a simple pirate head cake. But, never one for making it easy for myself, I wanted to jazz up the flavours a bit. Rather than using the traditional jam and buttercream filling, I settled on a raspberry mousse and a ‘toffee mousse’, which is usually called ‘fluff’ in Sweden – not to be confused with marshmallow fluff though. This is basically sweets {toffees, chocolates, foam sweets or jelly sweets – pretty much anything will do} melted in cream and later whipped like normal cream. It’s very popular as a cake filling but works equally well to frost cupcakes. Not the least be healthy, but hey, birthday cakes aren’t supposed to be!

I started off by making a sketch of the cake, to use as a guide when decorating it. I had initially thought about cutting out parts of it to use as a stencil, but ended up free-handing when decorating it. Pirate cake sketchI bought red and black icing, to make it a bit easier on myself, and then coloured some white icing to make it skin toned {as my local supermarket doesn’t stock that}. Some more research recommended mixing red, yellow and a bit of green food colouring to get a skin tone. I ended up having mix the colours a couple of times before adding it to the icing, as the red became too predominant initially – so go easy on the red! Another thing worth noting is, put some of the white icing away before adding the colour, to be able to make the white dots for the head scarf, unless you want to send your husband out late at night to get more white icing!Pirate cake

Pirate cake

4 eggs
200 ml sugar
100 ml potato flour
100 ml plain flour
2 tsp baking powder

Raspberry mousse
200 g raspberries
1 tbsp sugar
50 ml water
2-3 gelatine leaves
200 ml whipping cream

Toffee mousse
300 ml whipping cream
180 g toffees

120 g  butter, softened
300 g icing sugar
3 tsp boiling water
1 tsp vanilla extract

Icing or sugarpaste in various colours

1) The day before making the cake, gently heat the cream for the toffee mousse in a saucepan along with the toffees until they have melted completely. Make sure the cream doesn’t boil, as it won’t be possible to whip the cream later if it does.
2) Once the toffee cream is cool, pour it into a bowl, cover and chill in the fridge over night.
3) To make the sponge for the cake, preheat the oven to 175C and prepare a 23cm cake tin
4) Whisk the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy.
5) Add the potato and plain flour along with the baking powder and gently mix in until fully incorporated.
6) Bake for 45-50 mins or until golden and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
7) Leave to cool.
8) To make the raspberry mousse, put the gelatine leaves in a bowl and cover with cold water. Leave for a few minutes until they have softened.
9) Meanwhile, heat the raspberries with the sugar and water in a saucepan over a low heat. Keep stirring until the raspberries start to break down into a puré. Once they are warmed through, add the softened gelatine leaves and stir until dissolved. Leave to cool.
10) Whip the cream for the raspberry mousse until soft peaks form. Add the cool raspberry puré and mix together. Keep chilled until ready to use.
11) To make the toffee mousse, whip the chilled toffee cream until stiff peaks form.
12) To make the buttercream, beat the butter until soft. Add about half of the icing sugar and beat until smooth. Add the remaining icing sugar, the vanilla extract and one tablespoon of the water and beat the mixture until creamy and smooth. Beat in the rest of the water a little at the time, if necessary, to loosen the mixture until smooth.
13) Cut the cake sponge into three layers. Add the raspberry mousse to the first layer and the toffee mousse to the second layer before adding the final sponge layer on top.
14) Cover the whole cake with the buttercream before adding the icing and decorating it.

Pirate cake with candels

Strawberry cake

There’s a lot of summer birthdays in my family, and this cake is a firm favourite for birthday celebrations. The other weekend we had a BBQ with our parents and took the opportunity to celebrate three of our summer birthdays. Unfortunately our fridge/freezer had broken down a couple of days before the BBQ so we couldn’t prepare anything beforehand, but on the other hand this cake is best eaten straight away – it’s light and fresh and doesn’t need to sit to let the flavours to mingle or the sponge to soak up any juices.

Strawberry cream cakeThe cake is layered with strawberries….Strawberry cake - layer 1 and a custard cream.Strawberry cake - layer 2 The sponge is flavoured with lemon zest, giving it fresh and light taste, even though it’s covered with whipped cream.  Strawberry cake assembledTopped with lots of strawberries! Strawberry cake I usually don’t like to make a big deal about my birthday, but I just have to mention one of the birthday presents I got from a lovely friend of mine. It’s a plate (bowl?) with “fika & more” printed across it. I was chuffed to bits to get it!!fika & more plate

Strawberry cake

2 eggs
250ml (1 cup) sugar
300ml (1 1/4 cup) plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
zest of 1 lemon
80g butter
225g milk (or water)
100ml (about 1/2 cup) ready made custard (I used tinned as it is usually a bit thicker)
300 ml (1 1/4 cup) whipping cream
50 ml (1/4 cup) strawberry jam
1 punnet of strawberries

1) Preheat the oven to 175C / 350F and prepare a 20 cm / 8 inch cake tin.
2) Beat the eggs and sugar until white and fluffy.
3) Mix the flour and baking powder and fold them into the egg mixture.
4) Add the finally grated lemon zest.
5) Melt the butter, add the milk (or water if using) and pour over the mixture, gently mixing until the batter is smooth.
6) Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 30 mins, or until golden brown. Leave to cool.
7) Slice the cake into three layers.
8) Spread the bottom layer with strawberry jam, then cover with sliced strawberries.
9) Whip the cream to a stiff peak and mix about a quarter of it with the custard in a separate bowl.
10) Add the second sponge layer and spread with the custard cream mixture.
11) Add the top layer and cover with the remaining whipped cream.
12) Decorate with strawberries.

Keep chilled until ready to serve, or if lacking a fridge – serve straight away!

Homemade granola

Pretty much every weekend now, or if not every then every other, I end up making granola. I got fed up with extortionate prices for tiny boxes in the shops, and started doing a bit of research to find a recipe to try myself. There are invariable variations out there, but this is one that both I and the rest of the family, after a bit of experimentation, liked the best.

Granola ingredients

I vary it depending on which ingredients I have at home, if I’m out of one the recipe still works equally well. The kids prefer to have theirs with raisins, but as I prefer it without, I just add it to their bowls when they eat it.

I’d like to say it works out a lot cheaper than the shop-bought varieties, but I haven’t actually sat down and worked it out yet. It is a lot more satisfying though!

Granola and yoghurt

Homemade granola

3 cups / 350g rolled oats
1/3 cup / 60g chopped almonds
1/3 cup / 60g chopped hazelnuts
1/3 cup / 60g chopped sunflower seeds
1/3 cup / 60g chopped linseeds / flax seeds
1/3 cup / 60g chopped desiccated coconut
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 cup / 65 ml vegetable oil
1/4 cup / 65 ml golden syrup
1/4 cup / 65 ml soft dark brown sugar

1) Preheat the oven to 170C
2) In a large bown, mix together the oats, nuts, seeds and desiccated coconut
3) In a small pot, mix the oil, golden syrup and brown sugar. Gently heat the mixture for a few minutes until he sugar has melted.
4) Pour the oil mixture over the oat mixture and stir until mixed together well.
5) Spread evenly on a baking tray and bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden. Stir the mixture once or twice during baking to ensure it bakes evenly
6) Store in an airtight container.

Granola in jar

Brownie cookies

Today {19th May} is World Baking Day. The World Baking Day website encourages you to “step out of your comfort zone and bake something you have never baked before”. However, I decided to skip the stepping out of my comfort zone part and just go for something I have never baked before, as I had stumbled across a recipe I wanted to try out.

I found a recipe called Better-than-Brownies Chocolate Cookies over at Brown Eyed Baker, and being very partial to brownies, I figured I’d give them a go.

The result didn’t disappoint, they really are like brownies in a cookie form – rich, gooey and very yummy! These are going to get baked in my kitchen very often from now on!  Brownie cookies

Here’s my adapted version:-

Brownie cookies

225g good quality dark chocolate
25g butter
2 eggs
175g sugar
½ tsp vanilla extract
50g plain flour
1/4 baking powder
a pinch of salt
50g chocolate chips or chopped dark chocolate

1) Melt the chocolate and butter gently in the microwave, or in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Leave to cool until room temperature.
2) Stir together the sugar, eggs and vanilla extract, then add the chocolate mixture and mix until well combined.
3) Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and incorporate gently, being careful not to overmix.
4) Finally, stir in the chocolate chips / chopped chocolate and put the mixture in the fridge for a minimum of 30 mins to rest and firm up.
5) Preheat the oven to 175C
6) Scoop about a tablespoon of the mixture onto a prepared baking tray.
7) Bake for 10-12 minutes or until they are firm on the outside. Like brownies, do not overbake!


Oatmeal bread rolls

This week is National Bread Week in the UK, so I thought I’d share one of my favourite bread recipes with you. I generally prefer to make bread rolls to a whole loaf of bread as a loaf often tends to go off before we go through it. Rolls on the other hand are easier to freeze and just take one out and defrost as needed. They also still taste freshly baked this way!

Oatmeal rolls in the making

This is a recipe that reminds me of the oatmeal rolls my gran used to make. These ones are a bit less compact though, and has the {optional} addition of linseed, or flax seed as they are also called, depending on where you are from. {Linseed seems to be the European name, whereas it’s flax seed in North America}. I usually use the brown variety, as they are generally better value, but the {more expensive} golden variety works just as well if you prefer not to see them as easily but still want the goodness they provide. Or just leave them out – I like the texture they add though.

Oatmeal rolls - ready to rise

The recipe is pretty versatile – I have used different varieties of oats {from finely milled to rolled oats}, spelt flour {refined and wholemeal} instead of wheat and have also made them as overnight rolls {I should probably have reduced the amount of yeast then though}

Anyway, here’s the recipe. I hope you give them a go!

Oatmeal rolls

Adapted from a recipe from Tasteline

Oatmeal bread rolls

500 ml milk
100 ml linseed / flax seed – optional (70g)
150 ml oatmeal (70g)
7 g fast action yeast (1 sachet)
200 ml creme fraiche, low fat
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons golden syrup
1000 ml strong bread flour (600g)

1) Pour the milk into a pot, add the oats and linseed / flax seed (if using) and simmer until thickened into a porridge. Leave to cool until lukewarm.
2) Mix most of the flour with the fast action yeast. Stir in the porridge, creme fraiche, salt, and golden syrup, working together to form a smooth dough. Add the remaining flour if needed, leaving a bit for when it’s time to roll out the dough.
3) Cover the dough and leave to rise for about a hour, or until doubled in size.
4) Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and roll it out until about 2.5cm/1 inch thick. Use an 8cm/3 inch circle cookie/scone cutter to cut out the rolls. {Or just divide the dough into smallish sized pieces and roll into a ball. Flatten slightly} Prick the rolls with a fork a few times on each and leave to rise on a baking tray for another 30 minutes.
5) Preheat the oven to 225 °. Bake in middle of oven about 12 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

The rolls freeze well and are equally good for breakfast, as a snack and bread for food.

Oatmeal rolls - ready to eat