#Recipe Baking with kids…not literally!

Montage

We’ve now been resident here in Toronto for 5 months and things have pretty much settled. My husband has found his pace with his job, our kids have made a smooth transition to a new school, heck we even seemed to have navigated the whole “Daylight saving hours” thing without too much trouble. The only fly in the ointment is me trying to start Mr. Mom’s from scratch again. Whilst a brand new audience awaits from my take on baked goods, it also means a whole bunch of people who no NOTHING about you. And that’s an uphill climb! (If you do happen to work in the foodie sector and would like a food writer, or baker to work with  please do check out my Collaborations page here.)

Anyhoo I digress! As I mentioned above, our kids have (surprisingly) takenthe move to a new country in their stride with little or no tears and tantrums. This week had them on their “March Break” from school- seems to be the equivalent to a UK mid-term break. As well as taking them to the obligatory art galleries and museums (I don’t know who enjoyed it more!) I decided to introduce them to the world of baking. Now I’m not talking anything major- they’re not quiet ready for the cook’s torch or bain maire yet! However you’d be amazed how some simple stirring, cutting, and participation can ignite eagerness.

Here are some of the recipes that took place in Mr. Mom’s kitchen this week. Whilst they range from the sweet to the savory, they are all big on fun, flavour and involvement from little flour-caked hands. I’ve  also included some tips on getting kids involved in the kitchen. Don’t get me wrong- I’m not including this because I consider myself some kind of childcare expert and these are rules by which you should abide. They’re simply meant from the point of my being a dad who wanted to get his children involved in baking and these ways worked for me. I’ve left where to get your kids involved to your discretion as you know them best after all.

Some tips/tricks:

  • Put on some music. Not loud enough that you have to shout over it but loud enough for background. It helps to have something to pass lengthy tasks like kneading or blending. Also think sing-along or random exclamations of “Knead to the beat!”
  • Get the children to find and fetch the ingredients. Framed as a “Baking Treasure Hunt” I’ve seen it help reading skills and memory.
  • Weighing is a surprisingly enticing activity which always draws willing volunteers.  If they overshoot the mark when pouring, it’s no biggie (despite their possible panic!)

So now on to the fun stuff- the recipes! These are a selection of what ended up on the cooling rack…

No Bake Chocolate Cookies

Pumpkin Bread

Sugar Cookies

Simple White Loaf ( and how this can be used to make Pizza)

 

Mud Puddles (aka No Bake Chocolate Cookies)

pic 4

 

Ingredients

200g caster sugar

125ml semi-skimmed milk

115g salted butter

4 tablespoons cocoa, unsweetened

1 tablespoon good quality vanilla extract

1 pinch salt

120g gram crunchy peanut butter

225g Jumbo Oats

225g Quick Oats

Method
  • Line baking sheets with baking parchment
  • Bring the sugar, milk, butter and cocoa to a boil in a large saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, then keep on a rolling boil for 1 minute
  • Remove from the heat. Add the oats, peanut butter, vanilla and salt, and stir to combine
  • Drop spaced tablespoonfuls of the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet
  • Leave to cool at room temperature for min 1 hour. After this they’ve set enough tp pick up and eat. I find they usually taste better and are easier to handle the next day
  • These can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days

 

Pumpkin Bread

pic 3

Ingredients

250g all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

400g caster sugar

170g unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

1 can (425g)  pumpkin (make sure it’s 100% pumpkin puree)

pic 2

Method
  • Preheat your oven to 160c or 325F.
  • Prepare two 1lb loaf tines with cake release or grease with butter
  • In a bowl sift together the flour, salt, baking powder, baking soda and spices
  • In a stand mixer combine the sugar, butter and eggs and mix for at least 10 mins
  • Reduce the mixer speed to low and add in the flour mixture by heaped tablespoon at a time. Keep  the mixer going until just combined – make sure there are no white flour pockets
  • Remove the bowl, pour the mixture equally between the prepared tins and level the top
  • Bake in the oven for 60-70mins until a skewer comes out clean
  • Remove from the oven, remove from tins and leave to cool on a wire rack. When cool wrap in clingfilm until needed.
  • These loaves get better over time. After a couple of days wrapped they develop a fudgy, sticky texture which goes really with the warming spicy flavor (similar to McVities Jamaican Ginger Cake for those of you who know it?)

 

Sugar Cookies

pic 5

Ingredients

350g unsalted butter, softened

400g caster sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

620g all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

Icing sugar for dusting and rolling

 

Method
  • Preheat oven to 200C or 400F
  • Line cookie sheets with baking parchment
  • Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together in a bowl
  • In a stand mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth (mix for at least 10 mins)
  • Beat in eggs, one at a time,and vanilla
  • With the mixer on a slow speed, stir in the flour mixture one heaped tablespoon at a time until well combined and a dough formed
  • Tip the dough onto clingfilm and wrap tightly
  • Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight)
  • Dust a surface with icing sugar, sprinkle the dough with icing sugar and roll out the dough to a thickness of apx 5mm (*use icing sugar to prevent sticking to surface and rolling-pin)
  • Cut out shapes using cookie cutters and transfer to prepared baking sheets
  • Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 mins
  • Remove and use a wide spatula or palette knife to transfer the soft cookies to wire rack to cool. They’ll firm up upon further cooling.

* I made 50/50 blend of vanilla and chocolate sugar cookie by removing half the dough when refrigerating it and leaving half in the bowl. To this I added 50g unsweetened cocoa powder and 100g unsweetened chocolate chips. Mix until well combined then refrigerate and make as per the rest of the recipe.

 

Simple White Loaf

pic 12

Ingredients

500g Bread flour

12g fast action yeast

10g salt

40ml light olive oil

320ml warm water

pic 10

Method
  • In a bowl combine the flour, yeast (to one side) and salt (to opposite side)
  • In bowl combine olive oil and water
  • Pour the water/oil mixture into the flour bowl in a steady stream
  • With your hand in a “Claw” shape mix from outside of the bowl towards to centre. Continue until all the mixture comes together into a dough ball and the bowl sides are clean
  • Lightly oil a surface with olive oil and tip out the dough onto it
  • Knead the dough for 10 mins until it becomes smooth and elastic
  • Transfer the kneaded dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover with some lightly oiled cling film. Leave to rise until doubled in size
  • Line a baking sheet with baking parchment and dust with bread flour
  • Again lightly oil a surface and tip out the risen dough
  • Punch and knead the dough, for about 5 mins, until all the air has been expelled from it (called “Knocking Back”)
  • Shape with your hands into a long oval shape and transfer to the prepared baking sheet
  • Cover loosely with some damp kitchen paper or oiled cling film and leave for 40-60 mins until risen
  • Preheat your oven to 225c or 435F
  • Once the dough has risen, lightly spray with water, slash the top of the loaf, dust with all-purpose flour and place it in the preheated oven. After doing this place a dish filled with 1 pint of water in the bottom of the oven (this creates a crust)
  • Bake for 25mins, at which point reduce the temperature to 200c or 390F and continue to bake for a further 15-20mins
  • Remove the loaf from the oven (careful of the steam!) and leave to cool

Pizza adaptation

I’ve also used this recipe to make pizzas which the kids absolutely go crazy for. I’m not sure that it’s as much for the taste of it as it is for the whole “I’ve made this!” boost to their confidence. To use this for pizza making follow the steps until the “Knocking Back” stage.

pic 9

  • After knocking back the dough divide into equal pieces (I usually get 4-5 good size pizzas from this quantity of dough).
  • Preheat your oven to 250C or 475F (with baking sheets or pizza stones in)
  • Sprinkle a surface with a 50/50 combination of all-purpose flour and semolina
  • Dust the dough with some of the flour/semolina mixture. Flatten and stretch the dough until thin into which ever shape works best for you- circle, oval or rectangular. It just depends on what fits with your oven
  • Dress to your (and your kids!) taste with toppings. All of the following are good- tomato passata (as sauce); cheese shreds; bacon; tuna; pepperoni; chicken; fresh herbs; fresh mozzarella; thinly sliced figs…thre list can go on!
  • Carefully remove and dust your baking sheets or pizza stone with flour/ semolina mixture
  • Transfer your pizza(s) to baking sheets or pizza stone and bake for 10-12 mins until ready
  • Remove from oven, brush the exposed sides with extra virgin olive oil and servepic 8

So there’s a brief selection of some o the tasty goods from my kitchen. I hope you enjoy baking them, getting your kids to pitch in and tasting them as much as we have.

 

 

 

 

 

#Recipe Candycane Brownies

 

 

candycane-brownies-10

And now January has set in. Tinsel and lights have been packed away. Christmas tree carcasses litter the sidewalks- emaciated reminders of festivities past. On the whole January would appear to be a pretty “grey”- The Month of M’eh. Each mouthful of chocolate or candy is now succeeded by a guilty pang of remorse. “December was pretty indulgent, I really shouldn’t be eating this”…said no one in my kitchen. Ever!

“Seize the moment. Think of all those women on the Titanic who waved off the dessert cart.”

Erma Bombeck

There’s usually a surplus of sweet treats of some variety in my house after the festive season. This year is was candy canes. Having fulfilled their duty of adorning the christmas trees for the best past of a month (and surviving the voracious eyes of my children!) it’s now time to put them to an alternative, and somewhat tastier, use.

For something so small and simple candy cane have an assortment of end uses in the kitchen. Aside from having a good ol’ fashioned chomp on them, there are recipes available for flavoured vodkas, cupcakes, and hot chocolate. I opted for using them in one of my favourite flavour combinations- mint and chocolate. My Candy cane Brownies are rich, indulgent treats laced with peppermint and studded with chewy, mini nuggets of stripped cane and chocolate chumks. Just for good measure there’s an extra sprinkling of smashed candy canes topping each brownies with extra festive whimsy.

Having arrived in our new home of Canada just ahead of the festive blitz I had little time for baking and experimenting with the new array of ingredients that have since become available to me. New brands, varieties and flavours lined shelfs, all there for the taking in my greedy mitts. The cocoa powder I used here, Fry’s (which is a Dutch processed cocoa), resulted in a much darker and richer chocolate flavour compared to those I’ve used in the UK. I’d highly recommend trying to get your hands on some if you can! So this recipe provided the perfect excuse for not only using up the excess candy canes but also as a trial for using unfamiliar ingredients. I hope you like them. And yes I know it’s strictly speaking a christmas recipe and the festive season is done and dusted, but just them of them as a legitimate excuse for resurrecting it for a brief few minutes. Enjoy!

candycane-brownies-6

Candy cane Brownies

makes 12

Unsalted butter 185g, cubed

185g Bakers unsweetened chocolate, broken into pieces

1 tablespoon Nielsen Massey peppermint extract

3 eggs

275g caster (superfine) sugar

85g plain flour

½ teaspoon salt

50g Fry’s cocoa powder

50g Bakers semi-sweet chocolate, cut into small chunks

50g peppermint candy cane, broken into smalls pieces

To decorate

75g peppermint candy canes, smashed into irregular pieces

  • Set your oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and line a deep 12″x9″ baking tray with baking parchment.
  • Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thickened and fluffy, then, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder and salt.
  • Stir the peppermint extract into the cooled chocolate mixture, and the fold into the egg mixture.
  • Sieve in the dry ingredients, and fold together.
  • Mix in the chocolate chunks and candy cane pieces. Fold again until well combined.
  • Pour your mixture into the lined tray and gently spread to level the surface. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes. To test- insert a skewer into the mixture about 1 inch from the edge of the tin and it should come out clean.
  • To decorate-sprinkle the top of the brownies with the smashed candy cane pieces and gently push into the surface so the stick.
  • Leave to cool completely in the tin before cutting into squares, and serving.

candycane-brownies-7

 

 

#Recipe Brownie Fries w/ Raspberry Ketchup & Yuzu Mayo

So this recipe originally started as an idea to create smaller “bite-size” brownies with a difference. Sadly after a quick Googling (!) I found someone else had beat me in creating the concept. Oh well, imitation is the best form of flattery as they say. Brownie Fries or “Fruffles” (a portmanteau of Fries + Truffles) as they appear to be called in some places Stateside have been around for a while. Usually they’re served with a berry compote “ketchup” and yogurt “mayo” but not one to let a chance for experimentation go by I decided to mix up the flavours a bit.

Berry ketchup and yogurt mayo? Oh no, no- not for me! So all aboard the “Flavour train” for a raspberry dipping sauce with fresh and spicy notes thanks to basil and black pepper, paired with rich, creamy and zingy mascarpone dip. Here’s my take on Brownie “Fries” and they’re deep-dipping, lip-smacking good!

 

Brownie Fries (2)

Brownie “Fries”

185g unsalted butter, cubed

185g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, broken into pieces

eggs 3

275g caster sugar

85g plain flour

1 tbsp Espresso powder

50g dark chocolate chips

50g milk chocolate chips

100g pecans, lightly roasted and roughly chopped

To decorate

125g 70% cocoa dark chocolate, broken into pieces

125g milk chocolate, broken into pieces

Coarse sea salt to sprinkle

Freshly ground vanilla (Dr. Oetker do a wonderful grater/grinder)

Raspberry “Ketchup”

75g fresh raspberries

Handful fresh basil leaves, torn

½ tsp black peppercorns

Yuzu “Mayo”

250g Mascarpone cheese

100ml single cream

1 tsp agave syrup

2 tbsp Yuzu juice

  •  Set your oven to 180C/gas mark 4 and line a deep 12″x9″ baking tray with baking parchment, or 9” x9” brownie tray (with short dividers removed).
  • Melt the butter and chocolate in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool.
  • Beat the eggs and sugar until the mixture is thickened and fluffy, then, in a separate bowl, combine the flour and Espresso powder. Fold the cooled chocolate mixture into the egg mixture. Sieve in the dry ingredients, and fold together until just uniform in color.
  • Fold in the chocolate chips and chopped pecans until fully incorporated.
  • Pour your mixture into the lined tray, or brownie pan, and gently spread to level the surface. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, then leave to cool completely in the tin before removing.
  • Start by cutting the brownie slab in to 3” wide strips. If you’re using a brownie pan the long dividers will already have done this for you. Next, rotate the strips 90 degrees and cut strips approximately ¾ inch wide. Arrange on a sheet of baking paper with about 1 inch space between.
  • To finish, melt the dark and milk chocolates in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (or bain-marie), stirring occasionally. Once melted, remove from the heat and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, pour the melted chocolate into a piping bag and snip a small piece from the end to make a fine nozzle.
  • Pipe the melted chocolate over your brownie fries so that it drips down over the sides, forming the “batter coating” to your “fries”.
  • Leave to cool for about 15 mins then sprinkle lightly with seas salt and grind over fresh vanilla.
  • Leave to finally set.

To make the Raspberry “Ketchup”

  • In a bowl combine the fresh raspberries, basil leaves, and black peppercorns.
  • Using a hand blender, blitz until a fine pulp.
  • Pass through a sieve to a bowl below.
  • Set aside until serving.

To make the Yuzu “Mayo”

  • In a bowl combine the mascarpone cheese, cream, agave syrup and yuzu juice.
  • Beat until fully combined.
  • Spoon in to a bowl for serving.

To serve

  • Arrange the brownie fries alongside the ketchup and yuzu mayo.
  • Now dip away to your heart’s content!

Brownie Fries (5)

#Recipe- Egyptian Flatbreads

Egyptian Flatbreads 4

This started life as yet another “Popcorn” recipe which was consigned to the “Not Right Now” folder on my desktop. With the weather taking a turn for the better I’ve decided to dust it off and let it see the light of day. The flatbreads are really easy and they’re fantastic for picnic or BBQ weather. The popcorn feature ingredient can easily be omitted and the breads will be just as good- maybe not as much of a talking point though?

I love these with smeared with fresh, homemade hummus and sprinkled with some pomegranate seeds. They’re also ideal halved and stacked with slivers of BBQ’d meat, fresh juicy tomatoes and drizzled with olive oil. A definite taste for the summer!

Makes 4

Flatbreads

500g strong, white bread flour

10g salt

10g fast (easy) yeast

375ml warm water

40ml olive oil

2 tablespoons honey

 

Dukkah paste

100g chopped hazelnuts

50g sesame seeds

50g coriander seed

10g cumin seed

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon black pepper

50g nigella seeds

2 teaspoons sweet paprika

14g Lemon & Fennel popcorn, crushed

Olive oil

Egyptian Flatbreads 1

  • Place the flour in a bowl, add the yeast to one side, and the salt to the other.
  • Create a well in the middle and add 275ml water, the olive oil and the honey and mix with your fingers until combined. Continue to add the rest of the water a little at a time until all the flour in the bowl has been incorporated. You may not need all the water- you want a dough that is well combined and soft, but not sticky or soggy. By the end your dough should be smooth and elastic.
  • Lightly oil a clean bowl and transfer the dough. Cover loosely with oiled cling film and leave to rise until doubled in size.
  • Whilst the dough is rising, prepare the dukkah.
  • In a pan add the chopped hazelnuts; sesame seeds; coriander seeds; cumin seed; nigella seeds; and paprika. Toast over a medium heat until fragrant.
  • Add the salt and pepper and grind until rough.
  • Add in the crushed popcorn and mix to combine.
  • Drizzle in enough olive oil to create a rough paste.
  • Once the dough has doubled in size, tip out onto a lightly oiled surface and knock back to remove the air (knead for about 5 minutes).
  • Cut the dough into 4 (roughly) equal pieces, and flatten with your fingers in a rough circle shape. With a lightly oiled rolling pin, roll into a larger circular shape, approximately 10-12cms diameter.
  • Transfer to 2 baking trays lined with baking parchment (2 dough discs on each).
  • Smear each of the dough circles liberally with the dukkah paste, covering the entire surface. Leave to rest for 20 minutes.
  • Whilst the dough is resting, preheat your oven to 225 degrees.
  • When the dough is rested, place the baking sheets in the oven- one on top third of oven, one in lower third of oven. After 6 mins, swap the positions of the trays, also turning them 180 degrees (front to back). Continue to bake for another 6 mins.
  • Remove from oven and allow to cool on their baking trays for a further 5 minutes. After this time transfer from the baking trays to wire racks.
  • The flatbreads can be served warm, or cool.

#Recipe Cranberry, Pear & Dark Chocolate Hot Cross Buns

IMG_3404

Okay- I’ll come clean. I don’t actually like hot cross buns. Well- hot cross buns in the “traditional” sense. Dried fruits of sultanas, currants and raisins do absolutely nothing for me and hot cross buns I place firmly in the same category as Christmas Cake. I’ll accept them to be civil, I’ll bake them to experiment and I’ll eat them under duress. So it only seems fitting that this Easter season I come up with something  a lot more palatable, even to the those of us prone to outbursts of “inyaphobia” (yes, it’s a thing I jest you not…Google it).

I can’t quite put a finger on where my malaise with dried fruit comes from. It probably has its roots, like all else culinary for me, in my childhood and my mother’s kitchen. Each festive season, whether it be Easter, Christmas or Halloween was heralded with a routine palette of sensory ticks…the flat clanging of baking trays on kitchen surfaces, the heady scent of dried fruit steeping in brandy, cold tea or whatever liquid was to hand, and the frequent blistering blasts of heat from oven. It’s the smell of the dried fruit steeping that sticks with me, permeating memory as much as clothing. Like anything in life familiarity breeds contempt, and boy did my mother like a fruit cake!

Hence my deviation from hot cross buns with their traditional sultana/mixed peel combination. Instead I give you an almost “regal” combinaton of cranberries and pear (yes, I’m aware they’re dried too but far more tolerable in my view) laced with dark chocolate studs. Chocolate makes everything better. Except fish- that’s just wrong! So best you stick to making these hot cross buns instead.

IMG_3420

Ingredients
500g strong white flour
85g caster sugar
2 tsp mixed spice powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
10g fine salt
14g fast-action dried yeast
1 tbspn vanilla extract
40g butter
300ml whole fat milk
1 egg, beaten
65g dried cranberries
65g dried pear, chopped into small pieces
65g dark chocolate chips
Cross marking
50g plain flour
80ml cold water

Cross marking
50g plain flour
80ml cold water

Glaze
2 tbsp golden syrup

Method

  • Line a baking sheet/ tray with baking parchment and set aside for later.
  • Combine the flour, sugar, spices, salt and yeast into a large bowl. Make sure the salt and yeast are on opposite sides of the bowl.
  • In a pan combine the milk, vanilla extract and butter. Heat over a medium/low heat until the butter has melted. Allow the mixture to cool until tepid.
  • Add 1/3 the tepid milk mixture to the dry ingredients, along with the beaten egg. and use your hands to bring the mixture together. Add in the second 1/3 of the milk mixture and continue forming a dough, taking any stray flour from the sides of the bowl.
  • Finally, slowly add the remaining milk until you form a soft pliable dough. Take note here as you may not need all of the milk.
  • Tip the dough out on to a lightly oiled work surface. Knead by hand incorporating the fruit and chocolate chips into the dough. Lightly knead for 10 minutes until silky and elastic and the dough is smooth. (This part can also be done in a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, this usually takes about 8 minutes.)
  • Lightly oil a bowl and place the dough in it, covering with oiled cling film and leave to rest in a warm place for about 1½ hours or until doubled in size.
  • Tip the dough on to a lightly oiled surface and divide into 12 balls. (I usually do this by rolling it into a thick sausage shape, apx 40cms long. Divide into 2, then divide each half into 6 equal pieces and roll them into balls.)
  • Place the balls on the tray, placing them fairly close together and flattening them slightly.
  • Cover the baking tray with a clean polythene bag and leave for an hour until the balls have doubled in size.
  • Preheat the oven to 170 degrees.
  • For the cross marking, combine the flour and water in a bowl. Mix together to make a paste and spoon into an icing bag.
  • When the buns have risen remove the tray from the bag, snip the end of the piping bag (making a hole about 3mm) and pipe a cross on each bun. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pale golden-brown, turning the baking trays round halfway through.

To finish

  • Warm the golden syrup in a pan and while the buns are still warm, brush the buns with a little syrup to glaze. Return to the wire rack and allow to cool.

Serve with fresh butter. They can be lightly warmed in an oven for tasty seasonal breakfast treat. Enjoy!

IMG_3422