Cooking The Books February 2014- Snickers & Peanut Butter Muffins from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

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Snickers and Peanut Butter Muffins- an absolutely moreish treat.

As you’ve probably gathered from previous posts I’m doing a Cooking The Books Challenge.  In February I’m baking a recipe from each chapter of Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess.  So yesterday on the Friday of half term week it was time for me to bake something from the Children chapter in the book.  Though I only have had one of my two children at home with me, my son has been away with school on a skiing trip. So it has been me and my sixteen year old daughter at home all week.

Nigella has a recipe for Snickers And Peanut Butter Muffins, which as she says in her recipe introduction “These muffins have a special charm: I think the ingredients speak for themselves. But what I should perhaps add is that they taste seriously good to adults too!”

As someone who loves Snickers bars and peanut butter this was going to be a hard temptation for me to resist.  It was hard enough when I’d been in Morrisons and bought a four pack of Snickers bars.  I’m so surprised they stayed in the wrappers from the day before. Normally with my track record I’d have wolfed the lot before even getting them home! I was also lucky with the peanut butter, I had to buy another jar and hide it from my daughter and hubby.  They love peanut butter on toast topped with chopped banana sometimes for breakfast.  I only needed 6 tablespoonfuls for the recipe, though so they got to have the remains of the jar in the end.

So, here is how these delicious goodies were made;

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I chopped up the Snickers bars ready to be thrown into the mixture.
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Bright orange muffin cases ready in the tin.
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First I needed to stir together some plain flour, salt, sugar and some baking powder in my mixing bowl.
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I then added the peanut butter to the bowl and mixed it in.
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Then I added in melted butter, a large beaten egg and some milk. The chopped Snickers bars were added in at the end.
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All combined gently to make the muffin batter.
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The mixture was put carefully into the prepared muffin tin and baked in the oven for about 20-25 minutes.
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Out of the oven and on the serving plate.

Even though I’d stuck to the specified oven baking times I’d noticed that my muffins had burned a bit on the top where the Snickers bars were.  It didn’t affect the taste, only the appearance.

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I’d not had any lunch so by 5pm I was ravenous and tucked into one of these muffins with a cup of tea. Delicious!

I will definitely make these muffins again.  Nigella was definitely right when she said they were seriously good for adults too. Straight off the cooling rack and still warm as well! I had to hide the rest of the muffins in a plastic box so I wasn’t tempted to pinch another one.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books February 2014- Chocolate Macaroons from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

A week last Friday, when it was Valentine’s Day marked the end of a very busy week for us.  We had just got over a nasty flu virus and were still not feeling one hundred per cent.  The last thing on my mind was Valentine’s Day.  To be honest I don’t really care much for Valentine’s Day, if you love someone you show them every day, not just on 14th February. I do like to buy my hubby a card, we have a nice meal at home and I bake something for him.  It’s usually a big chocolate cake but this year I wanted to make something different.

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Chocolate Macaroons- a pretty Valentine’s Day treat for my hubby.

After I had managed to bake some pistachio and hazelnut macaroons a few weeks back, I was keen to try another recipe.  My hubby was pleased when I bought some macaroons home from Betty’s in Harrogate once and he enjoyed them.  So once again I turned to my trusty Nigella book “How To Be A Domestic Goddess” which I am baking from for this month’s Cooking The Books challenge.  Nigella has a recipe for Chocolate Macaroons within the Chocolate chapter of her book.  These sounded utterly sublime sandwiched together with a swirl of chocolate ganache.

So off I nipped to Morrisons to buy some chocolate and cream to make the recipe.  I had everything else in the cupboard and I hoped that Nigella’s method for making the macaroons would work as well as Lorraine Pascale’s did the previous time.

I needn’t have worried.  The macaroons came off the baking tray perfectly and I spread chocolate ganache in between two shells to sandwich them together.

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Deliciously chewy, the chocolate macaroons came out well. I’m afraid to say my hubby wasn’t the only one who ate them!

When my hubby got home he ate a couple with a cup of tea and said they were delicious.  My appetite had begun to come back after my flu virus so I must admit I sneaked a couple out of the tin, so did my daughter.  They vanished very quickly.  I will definitely bake them again as they worked out so well. I need to try some other flavours, my daughter has asked if I’ll make some raspberry ones.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books February 2014- Italian Biscuits from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

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Italian Biscuits- cherry topped swirls of lemon flavoured shortbread. Featured in the biscuit chapter of Nigella’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

Last week I baked for a tea party at the school where I work as a teaching assistant.  My friend and work colleague was retiring from her post and we held a special party for her in the afternoon.  The children had made sandwiches and decorated cupcakes and I decided to bake some biscuits along with the large celebration cake.  As I looked through the biscuit chapter of How To Be A Domestic Goddess I wanted to choose something which wasn’t too overpowering and would be fairly simple to bake.  This was to be my Biscuit chapter recipe for my Cooking The Books challenge this month.

In the recipe introduction Nigella says “This is a rather sweeping description of those shortbready swirls punctuated by glace cherries that  you see everywhere in Italy, mostly sold by weight.” I saw some of these pretty biscuits for sale when my hubby and I went to the Italian Lakes nearly two years ago.  I didn’t buy any as I don’t tend to crave biscuits and sweet things (only maybe ice cream) on holiday in warmer climates.  But I did think they looked rather pretty, they reminded me of a cross between melting moments and Viennese Whirls! 

So here is how I made them:

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I washed roughly about 20 glace cherries. Nigella says to use natural coloured ones. I had the bright red ones as I couldn’t find any in the supermarket at the time.
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Then I creamed some butter and sugar together until it was light and fluffy. I used the hand mixer though it would have done my bingo wings some good if I’d got the wooden spoon out!
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After this I beat in a large egg and grated in some lemon zest.
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Now for the flour, salt and baking powder.

At this point I felt the dough was a bit stiff to pipe with and I wondered how on earth I would get it through the piping nozzle.I managed after a little bit of wrestling with the bag though.  What did surprise me was how the recipe said it made 40 cookies, I couldn’t even get 20 out of the dough.  I tried piping small but maybe it was due to the mixture being a bit stiff and me being over generous with the sizes.

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The dough was put into a large piping bag fitted with a star nozzle.
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The piped swirls on the prepared baking sheets.
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The finishing touch! Half a cherry is added to each biscuit.
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All ready and waiting in the tin to be taken along to the tea party.

I was impressed with the overall flavour and appearance of the biscuits. I sneaked one at the tea party even though I’m meant to be dieting. You could taste the lemon flavour without it overpowering the flavour.  They were a winner at the tea party and I’m definitely going to make them again.  They would make lovely gifts wrapped up in a cellophane bag tied with pretty ribbon for birthdays or Christmas.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books February 2014- Blueberry Boy Bait from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

For my second recipe out of Nigella’s “How To Be A Domestic Goddess” as part of my February Cooking The Books Challenge I turned to the Puddings chapter for ideas for our usual Sunday lunch dessert treat. I wanted to try out something unusual yet be something everyone would eat in our house.  We had all been ill the previous week, struck down with a flu virus and no one had much appetite for dinner.  Though by the time we had got to the Sunday, I was still off my food, yet my hubby and son were feeling better.  My daughter was yet to go down with it!

Nigella has a recipe for Blueberry Boy Bait in her book. The title has always made me laugh,ever since I first heard of the recipe when Ruth Clemens (aka The Pink Whisk) baked a Peach and Blueberry Boy Bait in the very first series of The Great British Bake Off.  Although I don’t need to be “baiting” any boys as I am already happily married, I was secretly hoping the man in my life, plus my two children would be attracted by it.  The original Boy Bait recipe dates back from 1954 and was invented by a Chicago teenager for the Pillsbury $100,000 Recipe and Baking Contest.  It is still popular today.

Nigella says in her introduction to the recipe that she “wanted something different, something more luscious and perhaps something more English”  So, her version, to me comes out more like a Blueberry Queen Of Puddings. It has a custardy breadcrumbed based sponge, topped with blueberry jam and finished with a pile of crispy meringue.

First I heated some full fat milk and butter in a saucepan.
First I heated some full fat milk and butter in a saucepan.
Then I stirred in some breadcrumbs, sugar and lemon zest.
Then I stirred in some breadcrumbs, sugar and lemon zest.
The bread thickened custard base is put into the oven and baked for about 20-30 minutes.
The bread thickened custard base is put into the oven and baked for about 20-30 minutes.
In another saucepan went the blueberries, some caster sugar, some flour and some lemon juice.
In another saucepan went the blueberries, some caster sugar, some flour and some lemon juice.

When I got the blueberries out of the fridge I noticed the big punnet I’d bought had been opened and some had been eaten already! So the blueberry jam only had two thirds of the blueberries in it!

Stirring in the sugar and flour till it dissolved but I still wanted to keep the blueberries whole.
Stirring in the sugar and flour till it dissolved but I still wanted to keep the blueberries whole.
The blueberry jam.
The blueberry jam.
I whisked 5 egg whites together using my hand mixer.
I whisked 5 egg whites together using my hand mixer.
The baked base came out of the oven. It looked a bit stodgy and unappealing to me!
The baked base came out of the oven. It looked a bit stodgy and unappealing to me!

I was a bit unimpressed by the look of the sponge layer when it came out of the oven.  If this was meant to be boy bait…  well we would have to see what happened. More like boy running a mile from looking at that!

The jam layer was spread on top of the sponge in the dish.
The jam layer was spread on top of the sponge in the dish.
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The meringue is now ready after I’d whisked the egg whites. I added caster sugar to it, bit by bit.
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Piling the meringue on top of the pudding!
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Trying to make the meringue topping more interesting, like big fluffy clouds.
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The pudding went back into the oven for about 20 minutes to crisp up the meringues.
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I got three separate layers! Last time I made a Queen of Puddings like this all the layers merged into one and the meringue was squishy.

The verdict?  My husband tasted it and thought the base tasted a bit claggy.  I agreed with him although being off my food I only had a mouthful.  My son ate the meringue bit off the top and my hubby left the base part but loved the rest.  My daughter did the same.  Afterwards my hubby picked off the bits of overhanging crispy meringue but sadly this was definitely not boy bait here.  I think I will try Ruth Clemens’ version (which is on her Pink Whisk website) another time to compare. What a shame.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books February 2014- Norwegian Cinnamon Buns (How To Be A Domestic Goddess)

Norwegian Cinnamon Buns.  My recipe challenge to bake from the Bread and Yeast Chapter of How To Be A Domestic Goddess.
Norwegian Cinnamon Buns. My recipe challenge to bake from the Bread and Yeast Chapter of How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

For my first recipe from this month’s Cooking The Books Challenge I chose to bake some Norwegian Cinnamon Buns

from the Bread and Yeast Chapter of How To Be A Domestic Goddess.  I’ve never been to Norway, it’s one of those places that’s high on my places to go list but I have eaten similar buns when I went to Copenhagen a few years back.  I can also wholeheartedly recommend the delicious Cinnamon Buns that are sold in one of my favourite local eateries, a fabulous Norwegian cafe, Baltzersens in Harrogate.  Their bakes are just utterly sublime.

In the recipe introduction Nigella says ” The Northern Europeans and especially the Scandinavians are wonderful bakers and eating these for breakfast or tea on a cold winter’s day makes one feel ours is a climate to be grateful for. But then, I’ve always thought that bad weather has its compensations, most of them culinary”  Nigella, you’re a girl after my own heart!

Now, on this damp and cold February afternoon I’m at home from work and have just got in from walking the dog.  My son is laid up on the sofa with the start of a horrible flu virus and my hubby has just phoned to say he feels rough and is coming home early.  I guess if they are feeling rough, they might need something of a pick me up. So, I thought I’d bake them these Cinnamon Buns.

Here’s how I got on:

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First I added flour, sugar, salt and 3 sachets (I know, I thought it was a misprint too!) of yeast into a large bowl.
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In another bowl I added melted butter and whisked it together with milk and eggs.
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The whisked egg mixture was then stirred into the flour mixture.
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The dough was then put into my Kitchen Aid mixer with my dough hook on. It was put on a slow speed for a few minutes. It was meant to be smooth and springy. I didn’t think it looked right somehow.
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The mixture was extremely wet and was difficult to touch. I had to use a scraper to get it out of the bowl and I wasn’t sure if it was meant to feel like this.
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I greased another large mixing bowl to put the dough in to rise.
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This is what the dough looked like after abut 25 minutes rising time. It had been in my utility room on the worktop as it gets very warm in there.

Although I was meant to leave the dough for only about 25 minutes it ended up being left for at least a couple of hours. This was due to me having to go and pick my daughter up from her school rehearsal.  By the time we’d got back the dough had reached the top of the cling film stretched along the top of the bowl!

I had prepared some filling which was butter, sugar and cinnamon melted together.  It smelled absolutely gorgeous!

The dough was very wet and difficult to work with, so I found it difficult to roll out and got in a right pickle with it.  I needed lots of flour to stop it sticking to the rolling pin so I made my buns very much by hand and they do look very rustic!  I managed to get them to roll up into my large traybake container but they were very haphazard and all different sizes.

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Once I’d got the buns ready in the baking tray I brushed the tops with some beaten egg and let them prove once again before baking in the hot oven.

The buns went into the oven at 210oC for about 20 minutes and they did burn a little on the top of them. Though when I looked at Nigella’s picture her’s were similar and she says not to worry “if they catch in places”.  This was comfortably reassuring, thank you Nigella!

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The gorgeous smelling Norwegian Cinnamon Buns just straight out of the oven.
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Oy!!! Who’s been eating my buns?
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Eaten warm and fresh, these buns were heaven on a plate.

Well the buns went down well with my daughter and myself, though my son and husband were feeling very ropey and off their food. By the next couple of days I had gone down with the flu virus and went off my food too.  One day all I managed was one of these buns and by then it had gone stale.  I’m definitely going to try making them again, although they were a bit faffy to make they tasted delicious and I think my husband and son will enjoy them.  After all they love Danish Pastries and Chelsea Buns so they’ll love these!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Pistachio and Hazelnut Macaroons using Whynut Pastes.

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The fabulous goody box which Whynut sent me. It contained two types of pistachios, some hazelnut paste and some pistachio paste.
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I had two small tubs of nut paste, here’s the pistachio one. A little goes a long way!

A couple of months back I was excited when WhyNut sent me a goody box through the post inviting me to try out some of their pistachio nuts and nut pastes.  I used the fresh nuts in different ways in to make some Pistachio Cupcakes and in cookies but wanted to try out the nut pastes to delicately flavour some macaroons. Now this was going to be a big challenge for me.  I’ve always wanted to be able to bake macaroons but always thought they looked far too fiddly and complicated.  I tried once but to be fair I rushed them and didn’t follow the recipe properly.  The result was a sloppy mess and since that bungled attempt about 3 years back I’ve never bothered since. But I had the nut pastes to try out so all I could do was try and try again!

So I asked my friends on Twitter and Facebook what recipes they would recommend for baking macaroons.  One suggestion was to try the recipe in Lorraine Pascale‘s first book “Baking Made Easy”  I remembered seeing a macaroon recipe in the book, it was for strawberry and lemon ones.  Being as the title had “made easy” in it, I did hope that would apply to the macaroons too!

A couple of weeks ago we had a get together with my mum’s side of the family. We didn’t get round to exchanging presents at Christmas and I love making foodie presents. I always think macaroons look so pretty in a gift box and I had some brightly coloured ones bought from Lakeland to put them in.  I knew my family would appreciate the macaroons and wouldn’t take the mickey out of me if they looked like they’d been trodden on either!

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Delicate pistachio flavoured macaroons, flavoured with Whynut Pistachio Paste.

So, jobs done and dog walked I started on the macaroons.  First I preheated the oven to 150oC as I was using my fan oven to bake them in and found my silicone macaroon baking sheets.  They hadn’t been used before so I hoped I could use them properly.

I weighed out icing sugar, some ground almonds and some egg whites into a bowl and mixed it so it formed a paste. When that had done I had to heat some water and sugar on the stove.  I was dreading this after my fiasco of burning my thumb when I got hot sugar syrup on me when I tried to make lemon meringue cupcakes a couple of years back.  I tried to be so careful.  I did rely on my sugar thermometer to help me.

After this some more egg white was mixed in a bowl until I got medium stiff peaks, then to this I added the sugar syrup. This was then whisked until the mixture became stiff and shiny.  At this point I added a teaspoonful of the nut paste and a couple of drops of food colouring paste.  For the pistachio macaroons I used a small dab of mint green paste, for the hazelnut ones I had to use a cream coloured food colouring as that was all I had left in the cupboard! After this I then folded the egg white mixture with the almond paste mixture.

Now for the piping bit.  To make it easier to carry I put the silicone macaroon mats on top of a flat baking sheet (the sort I use for cookies) and then started to pipe the macaroons into the bases.  I used one sheet for the pistachio flavour, the other for the hazelnut ones.  To pipe I used a large “Get A Grip” disposable piping bag from Lakeland which I swear by.  The nozzle I used was a straight one and I’m so glad I used a piping bag.  Otherwise it would have gone everywhere.

Before putting the macaroons in the oven I gave each tray a sharp tap on the side of the cooker and also left them for about 1/2 hour to stand before baking them.  Apparently this forms a skin on the macaroons.  Then they went into the oven for about 12-15 minutes, Lorraine suggests leaving the oven door slightly ajar! This was a new one on me but I tried it.

When the time was up and I looked in the oven I was so pleased.  The macaroons actually looked like they should. I was all set to do a big happy dance around the kitchen.  It was a major achievement to me.  What’s more they came off the tray without sticking as well.

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The macaroon shells were filled with some whipped cream flavoured with a little pistachio paste.

After leaving the macaroon shells to cool for a while I got on with the filling.  I whipped up a tub of double cream then halved it into two bowls. To one bowl I added a spoonful of Whynut Pistachio Paste and to the other a spoonful of  their Hazelnut Paste.  These were spread carefully onto the shells with a small pallette knife and left to set.

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Here’s the second attempt at macaroons- this time they were hazelnut flavoured using Whynut Hazelnut Paste.
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The macaroons were filled with whipped cream and hazelnut paste.

Each family member got a gift box of 6 macaroons each and along with their spice jars and granola, the macaroons went down very well. They looked smaller than the ones I’d seen in the shops but everyone loved them.  I was so happy it has inspired me to try out some more flavours in the future.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books- My February Challenge.

A new month means a new book in my Cooking The Books challenge. For February’s challenge I’ve decided to use one of my favourite recipe books which I’ve had since 2004.  How To Be A Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson helped me to gain confidence in baking and helped relieve the bereft feeling I had when my youngest child started school around the same time.

I’ve also chosen to bake from “How To Be A Domestic Goddess” as there’s a load of recipes I love the sound of in the book but have never got round to trying.

The idea from the Cooking The Books Challenge is that I bake at least one recipe from each chapter featured in the book.  This is more manageable and means I’m not baking stuff my family don’t like. (well I suppose that’s the plan, in theory). If I baked my way through the whole of a book as a challenge some recipes wouldn’t be worth baking as they just wouldn’t get eaten up!

How To Be A Domestic Goddess has nine chapters: Cakes, Biscuits, Bread and Yeast, Chocolate, Children, Christmas, Pies, Puddings and The Domestic Goddess’ Larder.  So that means nine bakes this month.  Hope I can fit them in!

Cakes- I’ve got my eye on Flora’s Famous Courgette Cake.  The picture of it looks so pretty with pistachios on top and I would just love to see my family’s face after they eat the cake when I tell them it contains the very vegetable they hate! They didn’t notice when I baked a courgette loaf last year!

Biscuits- I’m going to try the pretty, swirly Italian Biscuits.  I remember seeing some similar on holiday in Italy a couple of years ago and wanting to try them.  They’ll be perfect for my work colleague’s retirement tea party.

Pies; There are a lot of pies in this chapter that I know my family won’t eat but I think they’ll like the Potato Cheese and Onion Pies.  They’ll be great with some salad for a Saturday lunchtime.

Puddings: The Blueberry Boy Bait sounds really interesting, something I would love to try.  I’ve already “baited” my husband, think it was my banoffee pie and tiramisu that did it, though!

Chocolate- I noticed a delicious looking recipe for Chocolate Macaroons.  As I’m a newcomer to baking macaroons and it’s going to be Valentine’s Day this month, macaroons will be a perfect present for my hubby.

Kids-  Nigella has a recipe for Snickers and Peanut Butter Muffins in the Kids’ chapter of the book.  I can see my own kids demolishing these very quickly.

Bread and Yeast: This is my nemesis of the baking world but I want to get better at baking anything with yeast in it. So I’m going to try the Norwegian Cinnamon Buns.

The Domestic Goddess’ Larder- I’m not one who does make my own jam and curd on a regular basis, when I do try It doesn’t always go to plan. My larder/ cupboard is a dumping ground for cake tins and other stuff, there aren’t rows of jams and chutneys gleaming at me.So I’m keen to try the Lime Curd recipe in this chapter as it is meant to be a filling for the Courgette Cake.

So, that is the challenge for February.  Let’s see how I get on.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx