Cooking The Books February 2014- Flora’s Famous Courgette Cake from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

Last Sunday I needed a pudding for our lunch and thought about baking something from the Cake chapter of How To Be A Domestic Goddess.  My favourite bake so far from that chapter has been the Boston Cream Pie but my eye has also been on the Courgette Cake in the same chapter.  The picture of it in the book looked so pretty with the pastel green pistachios sprinkled on top and a pale green layer of lime curd gently seeping out of the middle of the cake.  I definitely wanted to give it a try but I knew my family would not be keen on anything with courgettes in it.  They hate them with a passion. If I use any courgettes in my cooking they usually get fished out and put on the side of the plate.  I hoped, though that in a cake they wouldn’t notice them mixed in with other ingredients.  After all they troughed down the  Honey and Courgette Loaf baked from The Great British Bake Off Everyday cookbook when I baked it last summer!

Nigella mentions in her recipe introduction that the recipe was actually given to her by Flora Woods who worked in Harrod’s Waterstones when How To Eat was published.  She also mentions that “if courgette cake sounds dodgy to you, think about carrot cake for a moment, this is just an adaptation of that (though if you feel it’s safer, don’t tell people it’s made out of courgettes until after they’ve eaten it)!” I reckoned that would work with my family if they were well disguised!

So, last Sunday afternoon in between ironing and cleaning I attempted to wow my family with the pretty cake.  Read on to see how I got on with baking it:

Nigella mentions that you can add raisins to the mixture if you want.  I didn’t have any, only mixed fruit so I left them out of the cake.

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I grated two courgettes and tried to drain excess water out of them.
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In a bowl I combined eggs, oil and caster sugar.
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The eggs, sunflower oil and sugar were beaten together until creamy.
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Then the dry ingredients were added to the wet ones. These were self raising flour, bicarbonate of soda and baking powder.
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Once this was mixed I then added in the grated courgette.

The two cakes were baked in greased and lined 8″ diameter sandwich tins at 180oC for roughly half an hour.  This wasn;t a problem and they didn’t look too bad when they came out of the oven.  I had my cooled lemon curd ready which wasn’t what I wanted to put in the cake at all after my disastrous attempt at making it earlier!

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Out of the tins and cooling on a wire rack in my kitchen.
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The lumpy lemon curd made earlier on that day to use as the filling in the cake.

I’d read somewhere that using low fat cream cheese is a no-no for making frosting with.  It just doesn’t work properly but sadly I hadn’t got any full fat cheese so I had to use the low fat stuff. As I mixed up the icing it just wouldn’t thicken and I became so frustrated. The icing was sloppy, gloopy and ran all down the sides of the cake instead of being spread all over the top of it.  I was really disappointed in it.

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Making up the cream cheese frosting to top the cake with. Unfortunately I used Morrison’s own brand low fat cheese which was far too runny as I didn’t have full fat Philadelphia. Big mistake, it just wouldn’t thicken up!
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The finished cake. The thick and creamy icing turned out to be thin and runny.
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The runny icing totally messed up the cake and dripped down the side of it. What a cake wreck!

To finish, I grated plain chocolate on top of the cake as I knew my children don’t like pistachios.  In the end I think the grated chocolate was the best part of the cake for them!

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We had a small slice for our pudding. As you can see not much was eaten!

I brought the cake out at pudding time and my son said “What the hell is that?”  I said it was a cake, which it was!  When I cut into it, he said “Ugh, it’s got bogies in it!” Both my son and daughter refused to try some and said they would go without.  My husband thought it was bits of lime zest in the cake and didn’t think it was courgette in it until after when he said he couldn’t taste any lime!  He didn’t like it and neither did I.  The lemon curd was very sweet and cloying and I ended up eating two mouthfuls of my cake.  I was very disappointed in it.

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A slice of courgette cake, the courgette is clearly visible which put the kids off straightaway and the lemon curd didn’t look very appetising.

Sadly the rest of the cake did not get eaten as none of us liked it in the end. In hindsight I should have chosen another cake from the chapter, there was also a heavenly sounding Butterscotch Cake which I should have gone for instead. Oh well, you live and learn!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

Cooking The Books February 2014- Cheese, Onion and Potato Pies from How To Be A Domestic Goddess.

At the time of writing it is nearly the end of February and I’m still trying to bake something from each chapter of How To Be A Domestic Goddess  as part of my monthly Cooking The Books challenge. Last Saturday I had to try and bake something from the Pastry chapter.  Pastry is something I either get right or wrong depending on time, mood, the weather, well you name it.  I wanted to bake something savoury for a change and it had to be something my family would eat, yet be quick to bake and not too fiddly.

So, for Saturday lunch I chose to bake the Cheese, Onion and Potato Pies, which Nigella says is “the picnic food of fondness imagination, although we eat them for ordinary tea in the kitchen fairly often,”  I agree they would make great picnic food but in the middle of the cold, wet and rainy February we’re having at the moment I think I’ll stay inside and eat them in the warm, thank you!  My husband and daughter were out, so it was just me, the dog and the cat for company.

Here’s how they were made:

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I made up a batch of shortcrust pastry by hand in the traditional fashion. Nigella’s recipe uses Trex as an ingredient along with butter.

The pastry came together fine for me, usually I get my food processor out but I couldn’t be bothered to get it out of the cupboard.  I hoped it wouldn’t be too difficult to work with as my hands get quite warm when working in the kitchen.

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I chopped up 6 spring onions for the filling. Nigella says “the trick is to use spring onions which have all the flavour but none of the BOey breath of the usual onion!”
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Also for the filling I peeled and diced about 500g potatoes.
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My two Yorkshire pudding tins.
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The potatoes were par-boiled in salted water for about 5-10 minutes. They had to be soft but still retain their shape.
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After the pastry had chilled for about 20 minutes I rolled it out and cut 16 circles (8 tops and 8 bottoms) with a circular cutter. This cutter was slightly bigger than the base of the tins.

It was here where I realised the pastry was a bit thick in places and I should have rolled it even thinner.  No wonder I struggled to get 16 circles out of it.  I also noticed there was loads of filling left over, in fact half of it!  Did I make too much or wasn’t I putting enough inside the pies?  I struggled to seal the pies properly as well.

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The bases were pushed into the bottom of the Yorkshire pudding tins.
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To make the filling I mixed together the spring onions, potatoes and some grated cheddar along with some parsley and some creme fraiche.

Nigella suggests using Cheddar, Red Leicester and Parmesan cheese in the filling but I only had cheddar and some grated Mozzarella.  I put the same quantity of cheese in the mixture and the flavours seemed to work.

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Filling the pies with the onion and cheese mixture.
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The lids went onto the pies and I made a hole in the top of each one before putting them into the oven.
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The finished pies- very riustic looking yet very yummy!

We had the pies with a large salad for our Saturday lunch.  One was enough for me and still warm from the oven it tasted absolutely fantastic. Well worth the effort and I will definitely make them again, they’re a lovely treat on a weekend lunchtime if you have the time to make them.  I was expecting to have some leftover to eat the day afterwards but my hubby ended up eating three!

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My husband worked his way through three of these pies!

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx

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- 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

Nigella Lawson’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess- Christmas Morning Muffins.

Nigella’s Christmas Morning Muffin recipe from her Domestic Goddess Cookbook is just one of those recipes I’ve been keen to try ever since I bought the book nearly 10 years ago.  In the introduction Nigella suggests that these muffins are good as part of establishing your very own Christmas morning traditions or rituals.  To us in our house, we have our own traditions but I’ve never bothered with traditions for food on Christmas morning. We usually have something light and quick like tea and toast. About 11 am we’ll have a glass of Champagne or Prosecco with a mince pie to put us on until dinner is ready, usually about 2 o’clock.  Then again things are never set in stone in our house.  But I was keen to try out the Christmas Muffin recipe, it looked simple enough to bake the night before as I didn’t want to be baking on Christmas morning and the ingredients sounded festive and delicious.

Instead of the cranberries Nigella suggested I chose to use the same quantity of dried fruit.  I had some mixed dried fruit left over in an open bag.  I thought I’d save the cranberries for something else.

Here’s how the Christmas Morning Muffins were made:

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I used these pretty Nordic inspired Christmas muffin cases from Waitrose. I bought them last year and loved them.
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All the “dry” ingredients were weighed out into a large bowl. This was flour, baking powder, mixed spice, cinnamon, ginger and some brown sugar.
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The “wet” ingredients went into another bowl: orange juice, milk, eggs and some melted butter.
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Everything was combined carefully in one bowl with the dried, mixed fruit added into the wet ingredients right at the end.
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The muffin mixture spooned into the cases and all ready to go into the oven.
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Fresh out of the oven. Some muffins rose better than others!

Nigella suggests sprinkling the muffins with demerara sugar and cinnamon before baking.  I totally forgot to do it so I ended sprinkling icing sugar on the top of mine.  However, I was a bit heavy handed as you can see in the picture below!

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Ready to be eaten dusted with a little icing sugar on Christmas Day.

So, will this be a tradition to come in my family?  I don’t think so. Sadly I was the only one who ate a muffin!  It was just the four of us on Christmas morning and my hubby said no to a muffin.  As soon as the kids noticed there was dried fruit in the muffins they turned their noses up at them. Bet it would have been different if it was chocolate.  So it was toast all round.  It did taste lovely though.  The rest ended up being used as the trifle sponges towards our Boxing Day Trifle!

Hope you all had a lovely Christmas Day. It would be lovely to know if anyone reading this also has their favourite baking traditions over Christmas.

Happy Baking!

Love Sam xx