Thursday, 13 November 2008

Baked Bean Chrstmas Cakes??!!

Christmas will soon be upon us, with about 5 weeks to go. I think its 5 weeks, to be honest i'm trying not to think about it too hard. Like many people its not my most favourite time of year. But despite saying (like every year) that we aren't going to "do" Christmas, we still will give little presents etc. I guess we just don't do the big family gathering, huge meal and loads of decorations type Christmas. Of course we'll send cards and i've started making those up, i quite like this years designs. But for my grandparents (and i have no worries about posting this because i can guarentee 100% that they will not read my blog) we'll be doing the normal hamper thing for a gift.

Anyway onto the point of this post. No, its not cakes containing baked beans, although that would be an interesting concept......i might just do a google search to see if i can find such a recipe, after all there are recipes for cakes containing tomato soup! The reason i bookmarked this blog post about Frugal Christmas gifts was because i gave the idea and quantities for making 5 small individual cakes, reusing baked bean tins to cook them in. The idea works in theory but there are certainly a few adjustments i'd make.

I had only 3 baked bean tins - we really don't eat things from cans very often, which in my books is a positive thing because it means we don't eat that much processed food, certainly no more than once a week at most. Making the cake mix was no issue, neither was lining the tins, although it was a tad fiddley but thats one good thing about having small hands!

The first issue came when trying to turn the cakes out of the tins....... Our can opener is one that takes the top out of the tin rather than one that slices the whole of the top off so there was still a rim left on the tin which of course made removing the cake slightly difficult and i had to squash it a bit to get it out.

Once it was out and after a little reshaping it looked fine, well, shape wise at least. The colour of the cake was a bit light for a Christmas cake i thought but then the recipe only called for light muscavado sugar so thats not suprising really. I think if i were to use tin cans again i would use the ones you get pineapple or tuna in - slightly flatter and slightly larger diameter. I just felt for "individual cakes" they looked a bit tall but if they are going to be covered in marzipan and icing at least the squashed surface would be covered.
I used up the rest of the cake mix to make 3 other individual cakes but baked them in a silicone muffin tray that i bought in Lidls - they were in the newsletter priced at £1.99 per item, however when we got to Lidls the label said 29p!! Mum and i were unsure that i could be so cheap, even for Lidls, but when we reached the tills sure enough it was 29p per item. I wish i'd got more than 2 6 hole muffin trays and a loaf "tin" now - not that i really have need for any more than that!
Being so expensive (not!) i wasn't sure how these would work, although the recipe wanted a long slow (2 hour) bake on a very low heat (100 degrees C) and the packet for the bakeware said they can take up to a temperature of 260 degrees C, so i wasn't too concerned about the silicolne melting.
As they were cooking and rising though, I could almost see them popping out of the tray. It was clear just from looking at them that they certainly weren't sticking. In fact they came clean away and not a crumb was left behind.

The only down side to the silicone was that they were muffin shaped rather than having perfectly vertical sides, however again if they are being covered with marzipan and icing then if i trimmed the sides to make a perfectly round cylinder then my knife skills wouldn't show.
One thing is for certain - i shall be using that cake mix recipe! I think i'll use a more traditional fruit cake recipe. It was an interesting experiment though.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

It's been a while....

Almost a month since the last post. Kind of says it all really. It's been a tough past month and i don't think its over yet. But whilst there's break in the dark clouds hanging over me i thought i'd take the opportunity to post a few photos of things i have managed to do in the last month.

The sweetcorn has finally been cut now, at the farm, i noticed when i drove past last week. There's nothing really to do on the farm itself now, so there'll be a little office work up to Christmas and then work will begin again in February.

I really do love it up there when the weather is good. It can be so peaceful - depending on the wind direction and time of day, but even when you do hear the motorway it is just a background hum and although the planes are annoying they've flown off before you get a chance to get worked up about them destroying the peace. The sounds of the buzzards crying, the jays and woodpeckers calling and at the end of october there was the most magnificent sound of a rutting Stag chasing the does in the woods. They were so close you could hear the rustle of the leaves when they were moving about. It would have be even more magical if they'd appeared out of the wood, but sadly they stayed hidden.

One of ladies at the farm was telling me about her 4 year old grandson, who was critically ill in hospital. He was born with a heart condition, for which the surgery hadn't been totally successful and then on top of that he had contracted pneumonia. He's been in hospital for a long time and by the sounds of it was very fed up with being there and being ill, so i put together this little craft kit, something they could do together, a spoon friend for each of them to create. I haven't heard how he is recently, however i do know they were extremely concerned and sadly not too hopeful. I'll ask the others when i next go down to the farm, they hadn't heard anything last week.

Now something totally crazy! It November. A few weeks ago this area (although not precisely here) had snow. Yet despite the cold i have sugar snap peas growing and forming!! Admittedly very very slowly, but still it's just madeness!

The cold and frosts mind you are good for one thing at least. They really enhance the flavour and sweetness of the parnsips, which seem to have become giants this year! I pulled this monster which fed all 3 of us as part of our sunday roast a few weeks ago.

Then came Mum and D's wedding anniversary - How many years was it again D??!!

I saw this idea in a Christmas book i picked up at a charity shop. But having left things a bit late, and then fighting to get it done at all, it wasn't quite as i'd hoped, and infact i didn't manage to do dinner for them in the end, but i managed to get the present/pudding done, which in fact lasted for 3 days! I didn't manage to get a cone of Oasis foam, so ended up carving my own from a rectangle.
The traditional English theme for the 4th wedding annivesary is fruit and flowers (american is linen and modern is electrical appliances) so i decided on an edible themed present! With a rose for each year on the top.
Served with 3 dips - melted dark chocolate, melted milk chocolate and vanilla yoghurt. Some thing we (ok, so more me) could all share.
With the evenings dark now by dinner time we have to remember to get any veg in from the garden during the day while its still light! This carrot had my name on it, almost literally! And is now in fact a nice "J" avatar on one forum!

And so to halloween. Again because i left things a bit late, i only managed to get very small pumpkins, and the first supermarket i went to didn't have any left at all! Seems the shortage due to poor pollination from damp weather really did affect supply. It kept my amused nevertheless. The sunflower pattern was a design i found online, but because of the size of the pumpkin my other design i had chosen didn't fit so i made up my own shooting star design.

Lidls have had some great special offer on recently including some stunning 2 spike orchids for £6!! so i picked up one for mum's collection - and for me to photograph!
And finally another great deal - a whole salmon for just under £10, from which i got 14 (!!!) decent sized fillets for mum and D. Ok so after descaling, filleting and pin boning i can understand the justification of the price difference between what i bought and the prepacked fillets. But as i had an afternoon free to do it i thought i'd save some pennies and do it myself. It worked out to 70p a fillet in the end!
i don't know whats going on with photo sizes and who knows what will happen when i hit publish, but thats me for the last month. I think i might look into some blogging events, maybe that will encourage me to post a bit more often.