Distracting myself with bread pudding

Bread pudding

Bread puddingBefore Covid-19 you’d be forgiven for thinking that lounging around the house and not having to go to work for weeks, possibly longer, would be lazily wonderful, but sadly it really isn’t like that. Confined to the house with just one walk a day, and said house being my parents’ home in Surrey (I didn’t fancy self-isolating alone in a two bedroom flat when there was a five bedroom house with a large garden and the company of my folks available), worrying about family members with the virus, is not an easy task. But staying at home is an essential task and we do what we can to calm and busy our restless selves.

Bread puddingI’m missing work terribly and was heartbroken that I couldn’t go on with the baking, making and delivering of afternoon teas. I’m missing the little things I left in my flat in London before evacuating to Surrey. I’m missing the freedom of not being able to pop out to the supermarket because I fancied making huevos a la flamenco tonight and need chorizo and serrano ham. I’m missing drinking wine and dancing on our dining room chairs to Kylie with my housemate who has escaped to his family home in Ireland. But we do what we can to get through it. I’ve been going for my daily walk (10,000 steps), enjoying the sunshine, blue sky and spring flowers as I go. I’ve picked up a book I meant to finish ages ago. And of course, I’ve been busy in the kitchen.

Bread puddingThere is not much else that I find as calming as switching on Classic FM and rolling my sleeves up to cook or bake. Yesterday I distracted myself from some very difficult and worrying news by making bread pudding, using up some leftover end pieces with some dried fruit, some cinnamon and ginger (couldn’t just pop-out to pick up the mixed spices I’d usually use), some milk, brown sugar and a precious egg. It was simple, quick to make, and tastes delicious. We all enjoyed a slice with our morning coffee. This recipe is perfect if you have any leftover bread that’s not good enough for sandwiches anymore and if you can’t get hold of mixed dried fruit simply replace it with whatever you have (chopped apple, chunks of chocolate, raisins, glace cherries…). This lockdown is a time to get creative and try old recipes with new ingredients – let me know what you’re making and how you get on!

 

Ingredients:

This is what I used, but the joy of this recipe is that you can adapt it and use whatever you have…

600g bread

500g mixed dried fruit

140g brown sugar (plus a little extra to sprinkle on the top)

350ml milk

1 egg

A generous sprinkling of ginger and cinnamon (around a tea spoon of each)

 

Method:

Tear the bread into small, bitesize pieces. Add the mixed fruit, sugar and spices and mix together. Beat the egg into the milk, pour over the dry mixture and using your hands – this is the bit kids love! – squelch it together. Pour your mix into a baking tray, lightly oiled and lined with baking paper. Sprinkle the extra brown sugar on the top (I was rather generous with this as it makes the yummiest crust!) and bake on 150 for around 30-40 minutes or until brown.

Apple and elderflower cake

I can’t get enough of elderflower in the warm weather and this juicy apple cake is yet another delightful way to enjoy what has become a rather British taste of summertime. I would suggest enjoying a slice of this cake with a cup of black Earl Grey. Too delicious for words!

Ingredients:

8oz butter

8oz sugar

4 eggs

8oz self-raising flour

3 apples, roughly chopped

Icing sugar

Elderflower cordial

Dried elderflower petals

Method:

As with most of my cake recipes, soften the butter and cream in the sugar. Add the eggs one at a time, and then mix in the flour (make sure you don’t overmix, it’s important to keep as much air in as possible). Fold in the chopped apples. I like to keep the skin on for texture. Bake in a greased and lined loaf tin on 150 for around 40 minutes or until golden brown. Don’t forget to do the skewer test to make sure it’s cooked all the way though!

To make the drizzle add a couple of capfuls of elderflower cordial to half a mug of icing sugar and stir vigorously. You may need to add a tea spoon or two of boiled water to help it on its way – I would advise you to add a tiny amount at a time or you might find you need to add more icing sugar. Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake and lightly sprinkle the dried elderflower petals on the top. This pretty loaf cake deserves to be served on your finest china!

Roses and raspberries: a December wedding cake

One Friday in December my friend Mary sprung some surprise news on me: “I’m getting married on Monday!”

This was a surprise to me because, despite having known Mary for over 15 years I had no clue that she and her partner weren’t already married. What came next was an even bigger shock: “Can you make me a wedding cake please?”

What an honour to be asked to make such a special cake – the centrepiece of any wedding breakfast – but only having a couple of days’ notice, combined with having new staff to train in the tea rooms and already having other commitments that week did make this a bit of a challenge, but as I’ve said before, I do like rising to a challenge!

marys-wedding-5Mary loves anything chocolatey so we decided on a large chocolate and raspberry sandwich. It’s always a good idea to choose a contrasting flavour for your second cake, rather than something similar, so that you’re catering for wider tastes, so we chose a lemon buttercream sandwich for the top tier. Mary’s colour scheme was burgundy, perfect for a December wedding, so we decorated the cake with fresh flowers in white and dark red, and also used some lovely dark foliage and sparkly pine cones. And sitting on the very top of the cake was some miniature ‘Just Married’ bunting.

marys-wedding-2To accompany the main cake I also made some matching cupcakes – chocolate with vanilla buttercream icing topped with raspberries and lemon buttercream topped with red rose petals. The guests really enjoyed the cakes and the bride was thrilled with what I’d made for her. It really was a lovely cake for a lovely couple!