(Almost) According to Hummingbird: Muesli Bar

I was looking for something vaguely virtuous, something I could, perhaps, easily take to work to nibble at lunch-time. Something which wasn’t a sandwich, and which wasn’t full of sugar, and wasn’t really flapjack.

What I found was this recipe for a Muesli bar in one of my Hummingbird Bakery recipe books. It involved oats and cornflakes and dried fruits and nuts and seeds, and quite a lot of sugar, if I’m honest. It wanted about 240ml of golden syrup AND about 240g of sugar. Bit much, if you ask me. So I switched the both out with a large-ish splurge of black treacle. Still sweet (ish) but not quite as sweet as it would have been.

Muesli Bar

Apparently, though, Mark doesn’t like treacle (I did know this; I forgot) so I need not have been so nice as to switch out the raisins for something else. I also skipped the cornflakes, having bought a box of Morrisons’ own brand. I’ll have to think of something else to do with them.

So basically, I ended up with some fairly virtuous flapjack, being butter and treacle, with oats, desiccated coconut, apricots, cranberries, sunflower seeds, and pecans. According to the recipe, it didn’t need baking. I think if I made it again, I probably would bake it. It’s quite melty and sticky otherwise.

And then I decided that so much virtue was too much, and melted down some old and needing-to-be-used-up chocolate to pour over the top.

Sigh. I tried with the virtue.

Grasshopper Pie

Mark said he wanted a chocolate cake for his birthday, so I had a quick flick through my recipe books to make suggestions, and then left them lying around for him to find what he wanted.

He chose the Grasshopper Pie from one of my Hummingbird Bakery cook-books. It’s not a cake, and it’s only chocolatey because of the chocolate-biscuit base. And sprinkles on top if you want.

But it’s nice and easy to make, no baking involved, with each stage requiring time to set between times. And given all the other cakes and cake-like things he received, a welcome change!

Grasshopper Pie

Basically, you make a biscuit base like you would for a cheesecake, then melt some marshmallows with milk and stir in some whipped cream (with mint and green colouring), and then top with more whipped cream and optional chocolate flakes.

Biscuit base: 250g double chocolate cookies + 150g butter. Press into cake tin/pie dish and leave to cool for about an hour.

Marshmallow layer: 180g marshmallows (preferably white) + 180ml whole milk + 300ml double cream, whipped to soft peaks + 1tsp peppermint essence + 1tsp green food dye. Leave the marshmallow&milk mix to cool for 10-15 minutes before adding the cream, mint and green. Pour onto biscuit base and leave to set for a few hours.

Topping: 400ml double cream, whipped, + chocolate shavings/sprinkles (optional). Tip onto base and leave to set until ready.

White Chocolate, Pineapple and Papaya Cupcakes.

Do you write best at your laptop or with a pen and paper? Or at a type-writer?

I was talking about this the other day with my boss Helen. Apparently our branch of Clinton’s attracts writers. Anyway, we were discussing distractions and where best to write. See, I can write more quickly and words flow more easily when I’m sat at my laptop, Hilda (yup, I name my laptop), but I probably get more written when I’m sat with pen, paper, and ClassicFM.

But I have the best breakthroughs, and write what I think is my best work, when I’m walking and I have no pen and/or paper.

Like the other day. I finally worked out the ending of my story – something I’ve been puzzling over for months – while I was walking home from work. It was a sunny evening and my mind wandered. It wandered right to my world, and wrote for me a wonderful scene. Only I couldn’t remember it exactly when I came to write it down. Just the gist. Which’ll have to do until I’ve rewritten everything that happens before then.

Oh well.

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This week’s recipe comes, again, from a Hummingbird recipe book. The number of times I use those books is probably the best review I can give them.

It was a White Chocolate and Cranberry Cupcake. But I couldn’t be bothered to find cranberries, so I used papaya and pineapple instead. And I decorated them with marshmallows, because they were in the cupboard.

So, you need to mix 70g butter, 210g plain flour, 200g sugar and 1 tbsp baking powder in one bowl and 2 large eggs and 210ml milk in a jug. The dry ingredients should be a sandy consistency before you add the wet. Oh, and a tsp vanilla extract.

Spoon into cake-cases and pop in the oven at 170C for 20-25 minutes.

I reduced the amount of sugar – the recipe actually calls for 250g – but apparently I didn’t have that much. So I used 200g, and it doesn’t seem to have harmed the cakes.

You should get anywhere between one and two dozen cakes out of this mixture.

To ice the cakes, you’ll need butter, icing sugar, a splash of milk, and 100g melted chocolate. Beat together the butter and sugar before adding the milk and then the melted chocolate. Mix it all up and dollop on the cakes. Decorate as desired.

Decadent Velvet

While I’ve been weighing the pros and cons of starving myself three or four inches thinner for the sake of a dress, as well as baking Red Velvet Cakes (we’ll got to them in a minute), I took the more practical and sensible step of heading to a dress boutique and trying on dresses which fit me now.

I went to Vivien of Holloway. If you love the New Look style of the post-WWII years, and you haven’t heard of Vivien of Holloway, get your arse to Holloway Road, London. The lovely ladies there will be delighted to help. If I had the money, I would own one of everything. And a swagger jacket in every colour. They specialise in reproduction ‘50s clothes.

And not just their signature circle-skirted halterneck dresses. There’s the pencil skirts and swagger jackets, the gypsy tops and pedal pushers (which are actually the perfect length on the short-legged me), jeans, Capri pants, halterneck tops, pencil dresses, petticoats. A brilliant home of gorgeous fabrics and beautifully made clothes.

I was there to try on the wedding dresses, the confection of lace and satin being my main target, with the elegant Grace dress as another option. I was soon side-tracked by everything else on offer, which is annoying since I haven’t the money just yet to buy any of it. Sadly.

While I ruminate on all the lovely clothes, and prioritise my wish-list, shall we have some cake?

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This week’s trial was Red Velvet Cake, which came out somewhat less red than the picture suggested. This was possibly due to one of two things. Firstly, I used red wine vinegar instead of white (I have a bottle of chocolate red wine I let turn to vinegar), or secondly, not enough (or strong enough) red food dye.

Anyway, be that as it may, the cakes turned out well and tasted good. Another great Hummingbird recipe.

So, for about 12 cupcakes, you will need:

60g unsalted butter

150g sugar

1 egg

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the egg and mix well.

10g cocoa powder

2 tablespoons red food dye

Half a tsp vanilla extract

Mix together into a thick paste. Mix into the butter mix until it’s all smooth and evenly incorporated.

120ml buttermilk

150g plain flour

Add these, alternating half at a time, into the cake mix and stir well between additions.

Half a tsp salt (I normally skip the salt, I will admit)

Half a tsp bicarb of soda

1 and a half tsp white wine vinegar (I didn’t find that using red made any difference)

Stir thoroughly into the mix and spoon into cases. Bake at 170C/325F/Gas Mark 3 for approx. 20-25 minutes.

The suggestion is to use a Cream Cheese frosting, but decorate to your taste. Enjoy with a cup of tea.

Lemon Cupcakes

I feel like I’ve made great progress in the planning of this wedding. Still haven’t reached the heights of great stress that I’m told weddings entail, but I’m sure those’ll come. The images in my head are slowly becoming a reality, now that I have the catering and the registrar sorted. And my scouring of the web has turned up several potential dresses. My favourite one, sadly, would involve me losing about three inches, and growing seven. Such is the life of a vintage-lover!

And, since we can all agree that weight-loss is clearly on my mind this week, here’s this week’s cake test: Lemon Cupcake with a Lemon Cream Cheese icing and Blueberries. The cake is a Hummingbird recipe; the icing just cream cheese and icing sugar with a little dash of lemon juice.

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What you will need: 120g flour, 1 and a half tsps baking powder, 150g sugar, lemon zest, splash of lemon juice, 100g butter, 120ml milk, and 1 egg.

Firstly, mix together all the dry ingredients and the butter until you get a sandy consistency. I will admit, I gave up on the spoon and used my hands. Stir in the milk and the egg, separately, until nicely combined, and add a splash of lemon juice. This wasn’t in the original recipe – I just wanted to make it extra lemony.

Bake for about 20 mins at 170C. You should get about a dozen cakes.

For the icing, you need: cream cheese, icing sugar and lemon juice. Quantities to your taste. Mix it all up like glace icing and spoon onto your cooled cakes. If they’ve lasted this long. Dot with blueberries. Raspberries would work well too.

To be honest, I’m surprised they lasted long enough to be photographed. Most persuasive in their calls to be eaten. Really very tasty. These will definitely find their way onto the cake-table!