After our Doodle Bread adventures last weekend, I went on a bit of a bread making buzz. Normally we make our bread in the machine – it’s quick, efficient, makes great bread and, secondhand, it only cost me €10 – but I had forgotten how much I enjoyed the kneading side of things so it was time to dig out my Ballymaloe sourdough starter.
This baking event was a long time in the planning. Little Missy and I had been sent a Doodle Bread kit to try out before Christmas and, after watching the super-speedy how to video online, we were dying to try it out. The cold weather, however, combined with a non-centrally heated cottage meant ridiculously slow bread rising times. This is why we normally use the bread machine. But, with the recent arrival of warmer days, we decided to get stuck in.
Although I made mince pies for the Christmas Cookalong, that was the night I realised why I don’t normally make them. As I fiddled with the pastry and Little Missy stuck her hands, once again, under my rolling pin – difficult to avoid when she’s standing on her wee stool directly in front of me so she can “help” with the stars – I kept thinking that there have to be easier ways to make things with Christmas mincemeat.
Shortbread, salted caramel, roasted hazelnuts and dark chocolate, with a little dusting of sea salt – how could you possibly resist these? I don’t make them very often but they’re a great Christmas gift, just perfect for layering in a little tin, wrapping up safe and sending to someone special.
Ahem! Now, I know that the theme of tonight’s cookalong is actually autumn fruit and I know that a courgette isn’t exactly what you might call a fruit but as it grew in my garden and I’m turning it into a Very Good Cake, I thought I might get away with it. Besides, this is the kind of recipe that should need no apology although you will find yourself, all afluster, trying to justify it when people look and say, “Courgette Cake, really!” in a doubting tone of voice. Just tell them it’s a bit like Carrot Cake – that will convince many of the-you-can’t-put-vegetables-into-a-sweet-cake crowd – or simply cut them a little piece and try not to look smug when they come back for seconds.
If you grow any soft fruit, in the summertime there is always a need for a simple cake recipe that lets you showcase the berries (and use them up). Last year, it was this Blackcurrant Almond Cake, which I made several times before the blackbirds finished off my currants, but this Midsummer Cake from Nigel Slater is my new favourite.
I was away from the computer yesterday so here’s my belated entry to the Twookieparty, especially as Theresa from The Green Apron is judging and offering some of her amazing preserves as prizes – I’d put in a fair effort just for her raspberry and chocolate jam, as tasted recently at the Food Bloggers Country Outing.
In our house we really like pizza, especially when the parents aren’t about and the cottage turns into the Sunday lunch stop for the Sister, Little Sister and Small Brother. It’s easy to make the dough and sauce ahead of time, leaving the final assembly for when everybody turns up. That way they also get to choose their own toppings, which keeps everybody happy. This is how it works: