Dr Botanicals Advanced Revita-Boost Eye Therapy

Dr Botanicals 1

As a female in my questionable “prime” years and on the good side of my 40’s, when I was approached by Dr Botanicals I jumped at the chance to do a review of Dr Botanicals Advanced Revita-Boost Eye Therapy, or as normal folks say; eye cream! Firstly I lurve me an eye crea, from Lancome to Body Shop, I have tried many in the quest to keep them pesky laughter lines (THEY ARE NOT WRINKLES!) to a minimum.  Secondly the Scottish Lass in me could not say no to a freebie!

The product arrived well packaged and retails for £74.90 for a 15ml pot of the wonder cream.  It contains among many things Pomegranate Oil and Shea Butter both known for their hydrating properties which is perfect for repairing skin damaged by weather and UV rays………as I live in (not so) sunny Scotland I was more concerned with the “weather damage” given the gale force freezing winds we enjoy from October to March 🙂

Dr Botanicals 2The cream is silky smooth and absorbes into your skin quickly, I always apply eye cream using my middle & ring fingers and in circular motions as you will see in this video. The skin is left with a slight sheen and works fine under foundation and concealer, I would go so far as to say it improved the brightness under my eyes even under my industrial strength heavy duty Clinique 2in1 Beyond Perfecting foundation and not much ever shows through that bad boy!;-)

I have been using the cream for 7 days, applying in the morning and most nights (wine + late night = slapdash skincare) and I can genuinely say I love it!

Now would I buy it??????? £74.90 is a hefty price to pay for a small pot of wonder cream and normally I would say definately not, however will I feel the same when I reach the end of the current pot………..I may need to start saving the pennies now.  If you subscribe to their mailing list they regularly dish out discount codes and I will certainly be trying other products from the range……..I have my eye on their Bio-Vitality Nutrition Oil and Moroccan Rose Superfood Facial Oil as I love the Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate so based on the quality of the eye cream I have very very high hopes!

Let me know if you have tried any of the products and your thoughts.

Pandora x

Anastasia Beverly Hills Subculture Palette

Subculture PaletteAfter the massive success Anastasia Beverly Hills Modern Renaissance palette which has become a Holy Grail palette for many, the beauty world waited with baited breath and freshly washed brushes for the next palette release and on 2nd August 2017 the Subculture palette was FINALLY made available on Beauty Bay in the UK! So in a blink of an eye I spent £41……..queue Billy Connoly-esqu reaction from Mr P! “for a feckin eyeshadow!!!!!!” This from the man who regularly buys me Chanel nail polish, Kat Von D mascara and tattoo liner and Lancome moisturiser without (obvious) prompting…….he is a keeper!

Given that the brand is based in the US of A, the release date for our American beauty Babes and Bobs was on 25th July 2017 and as such YouTube, Twitter and Instagram were awash with good, bad and ugly reviews.  Many stating the fallout was horrendous, the shadows extremely powdery and the bizarre muddy effect people achieved when blending on the lid! Damning reports to say the least!!!

However, on 2nd August 2017 I yelped with excitement when Beauty Bay announced the release and logged on like a possessed woman to order said palette! After the usual Euphoria of securing such a highly sought after palette subsided I became slightly concerned over the reviews out there with many suggestions that there were “bad batches” out there and word that ABH was accepting returns……….never have I returned a palette or known anyone too, so this feels like either an acceptance of slight failure from ABH or amazing customer service.  Sadly I was assuming the former!

When my palette arrived the next day (free next day delivery from Beauty Bay – mucho love) I opened the box and packaging to reveal the velvety teal coated palette!  Containing 14 shades in the Autumnal 70s vibe kind of range the palette is the exact same size as the MR palette and sadly has the same velvet cover which personally I loathe as it is impossible to keep clean, albeit the teal shade may be more forgiving than the dusky pink of its predecessor! The new shades, personally, make a welcome change from the warm brown colours that seem to be in EVERY single palette at the moment (Morphe 35O being the main start of this trend), that being said the colours do still have a warmth but with the added bonus of a dark purple  shade (Rowdy) and three shades of green from a khaki (Destiny) to a forest green (Untamed) and finally a deep emerald (Axis).  The only recurring shade is the much loved Fudge which was previously in the 2015 Couture World Traveller Palette and can also be bought as a single shadow! So all in all we have 11 matte shadows, 2 shimmer/glitter shadows and 1 duo chrome! The pigmentation is intense on all of the matte shadows, the glitter shadows I found worked better using either my finger or a brush sprayed with Fix Plus.  The duo chrome is quite simply RUBBISH! I really wish they had left it out and gave us a highlighting shade for the inner eye and brow bone as this is sadly lacking!

On applying the shadows I found a soft approach better, no need to be double dunking the brush or swirling as the product crumbles and untimately the precious pigment will go to waste!  In addition the pigment is sooooooo intense that a small amount goes a long way and I feel the “muddy” effect many had experienced was probably down to an overload of product especially when buffing in as this pushes the shadow to the outer of the application giving a lightly weird dark outer ring effect!  So softly does it and I cannot say this loud enough but good brushes are definately needed when dealing with a highly pigmented shadow.

So to sum up my thoughts on this palette; on a positive the matte shades are extremely pigmented and I would go as far to say they are a pure pressed pigment and in the main have a creamy texture, on a negative note the palette is not balanced for me, firstly there is no decent transition shade unless you want your crease to be noticably peach, khaki or dirty brown (Mercury – this would be a great contour shade but didn’t work on my eyes at all) and secondly there is no highlighting shadow so personally I could not travel with this palette alone as it is missing some vital elements. Will I be returning it????? No, as all in all it feels like a nice palette to work with and whilst it won’t live in my “everyday makeup drawer” like the MR palette, I will bring it out to play over the coming Autumn and Winter months – otherwise known as August to May in Scotland 🙂

Let me know your thoughts on the palette and if you have found a way to get the duochrome to work for you without a mahoosive ringlight showing it up……Natasha Denona why???? Just give us a nice bright white pleeeeeease!

Embracing Change!

On the 23rd June 2016 Britain voted to leave Europe, my dad turned 62, my Sis from another Miss turned 39 (again ;-)) and little did I know on that momentous morning that my life was going to change…………………

Having returned from a lovely 2 week vacation in Mexico where the sun shone daily, we ate and drank our body weight in cocktails and nachos, we met some lovely friends and partied with reality TV stars (well one actually ;-)), I found myself thrust back into work life with renewed enthusiasm.  However, never having been affected by Jetlag I assumed the headaches and feeling of general unwellness (I was refusing wine – so anyone who knows me will understand the severity of this situation) three days after our return was down to this.  On the above fateful morning I awake as usual and stepped into the shower with the usual headache and tired heavy feeling but noticed I had also gained a new symptom……..a lovely red rash all down both arms.  Initially I assumed this was either a heat rash as I had been sweating during the night (stupidly not spotting this was a paracetamol sweat from the temperature I had been having – its always cold in Scotland so shivers are common) or an allergy to one of the trillion things I am allergic too……..Kiora orange being the original culprit aged 5!  Mr P was ready to leave the house as I wandered into the kitchen and when I mentioned the rash he went into auto-pilot getting out a tumbler (yes it’s a glass to non-scots) to roll over my mottled skin!  This proved inconclusive but on his insistence I called ADOC and was advised that as I was calling at 6:45am there would be no emergency appointment as the service finishes at 7:00am and I should wait from my own surgery to open at 8:30am (So folks if you need to get ill, 7:00am 8:30am is a no help zone).  Anyway, after another call to ADOC as I was rapidly feeling very unwell and had an overall feeling of “impending doom” Mr P decided to hotfoot it back home to whisk me to A&E.

Fast forward 10 days (the first 5 I have no recollection of) and following 4 attempts at a Lumbar Puncture, various tropical disease tests and an antibiotic described by the nurse as “bleach for the veins” I was eventually released from hospital and told it may take 24 months (yes 24 MONTHS) to recover and even then I may never recover to my full health or should we call it Pre-Men (that could cover so many topics lol) Health.

I haven’t mentioned that prior to this I was a busy active person and worked within Financial Services providing mortgage advice……………………………so if I were to ask anyone what is the main requirement for this career, the overwhelming response would be “good at counting”……..

Well 13 months on from that fateful day, guess what I can’t do…………..count! How unfortunate some would say, and believe me I have tried many brain training bits and bobs, I have also shed a few oceans of tears but thanks to the support of my family and the amazing Mr P I am taking it as an “opportunity” to try something new.

So folks keep your eyes and ears open (can you actually open your ears???????) as Pandora Bakes is becoming official and will be providing cakes, bakes, wedding favours and throwing in some extra beauty, travel and lifestyle blogging at the same time. Life is after all, what you bake it!

Change

 

She Got The Babka (Seinfeld style)

Anyone who has watched the Seinfeld “The Dinner Party” episode will know of Babka!!!!! Mr P it seems has not seen said programme or heard of Babka and when asked by a colleague if his wife aka Moi 🙂 can make Babka, “I’m sure she can” was the response! Oh the optimism and belief he has in my skills!

So challenge set for the following week as his “I’m going on holiday from work and will feed you all sugary goodness before leaving” treat!

After a few YouTube views and a somewhat extensive trawling of t’internet to read the must do and must not’s of many traditional Jewish recipes (oh how I dislike cup measurements…….what is wrong with grams and ounces????) I settled on my usual concoction of a few with a little extra for the sweet toothed uniformed workies who will be scoffing it! (now see that is optimism as at this stage it could so easily have been a recipe filed in B.1.N. )

The day before arrived all too quick and the usual anxiety from a sweet rich dough and the “will it, won’t it rise” fear kicked in!  That coupled with having decorators in and the kitchen disarray and general stench of paint fumes all made for a challenging bake!

Good luck making this chocolately, nutty, cinnamony, streusely delisciousness….have faith and patience and it will all be ok!

Ingredients for the Babka

462g Allinsons Strong White Flour

15g Allinsons Dried Active Yeast

177ml Warm Whole Milk

100g Tate & Lyle Golden Caster Sugar

1tsp Madagascan Vanilla Extract *

1/2 tsp Table Salt

165g Stork Margarine

2 Medium Free Range Happy Eggs + 1 Medium Free Range Happy Egg Yolk**

Ingredients for the Chocolate Filing

350g Jar of Nutella

200g Silverspoon Dark Chocolate Chips (or mixed if preferred)

50g Chopped Pecans (or Hazelnuts)

2tbsp Tate & Lyle Golden Caster Sugar

2bsp Stork Margarine

1 Medium Free Range Happy Egg Yolk**

Ingredients for the Steusel Topping

120g Allinsons Plain Flour

60g Tate & Lyle Golden Caster Sugar

80g Stork Margarine

1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Ground Ginger

Method

  1. Put the warm milk into your mixing bowl with 2tsp of the Caster Sugar and sprinkle over the Dried Yeast.  Leave to bubble and froth which will take 5 minutes – if it doesn’t do this I’m afraid the yeast is not working and you will need to start again with a new batch.
  2. Using a dough hook on your mixer (I have the Titanium Kenwood – it is my third and very precious child) add a few tablespoonfuls of the floor and mix till combined.
  3. Add the Eggs (2 + 1 yolk), vanilla, salt and sugar and mix on a medium speed.
  4. With your mixer at a slow speed gradually add the remaining flour.
  5. Turn your mixer to medium and gradually add the soft Stork Margarine and mix for 4 minutes till combined.
  6. Scrape the very soft sticky dough into a clean greased/oiled bowl and leave to prove in a warm place till doubled in size (Tip – as we live in antarctic type temperatures I turn my oven to 200c for 30 seconds, then turn off and put the bowl in the oven on the middle shelf (no need to cover the bowl) and place a pot of boiling water on the bottom shelf – close the door and leave for around an hour).
  7. Meanwhile line 2 loaf pans and if using a Bundt Tin ensure it is well oiled and floured
  8. Using a spatula split the dough in to two and place the first one on a well floured worktop.
  9. Heat the Nutella in the microwave for 30/40 seconds.
  10. Roll out the dough to a rectangle-ish shape till around the thickness of a pound coin.  Stretch using your hands if you prefer.  Press along the top long edge to make it stick to the worktop.
  11. Spread 1tbsp of stork over the dough leaving a slight gap around the edges.
  12. Spread half the Nutella over the dough and try to get close to the edge.
  13. Sprinkle 100g Chocolate Chips all over the Nutella
  14. Sprinkle 50g of the chopped nuts over the Nutella
  15. Sprinkle 1tbsp Caster Sugar over the Nutella/chocolate/chopped nuts.
  16. Slowly start to roll the dough starting from the long edge nearest you (think Swiss Roll type rolling).  Try to keep the dough tight by lifting gently and stretching as rolling.
  17. Cut the roll of dough into two longwise and squeezing two ends together start to twist the pieces together. Here is a little video to help (YouTube Babka Twist).
  18. Put into one of the loaf pans making sure the ends are tucked under.
  19. Repeat with second piece of dough.
  20. Put the loaf pans aside to prove to double the size either by covering and placing in a warm place or using my over/hot water method above.
  21. Once fully proved pre-heat the oven to 180c (350f)
  22. Brush the tops with egg yolk.
  23. Make the Streusel by placing all ingredients in a bowl and using your fingers bring together to make bread crumb texture.
  24. Sprinkle the Streusel top liberally over the Babka and place in the middle of the over for 45/50 minutes (as per usual I turn 2/3rds of the way through to accommodate my banjaxed oven).
  25. Remove from the oven and leave in the loaf pan/Bundt Tin for 10 minutes.  Remove and let cool………or simply scoff while warm and oozing with chocolate!  I am thinking custard or ice cream or double cream would be extra delicious with this while warm)

 

This will keep for 2-3 days and can be frozen for up to 3 months.  Remember after the 2-3 days should you have any left over, there is the option to turn it into a sweet french toast like the NYC Jewish Deli On Rye Cinnamon Babka French Toast……..it makes my mouth water looking at the Instagram posts and I will definately be visiting should I make it to the Big Apple in the future!

Please let me know if any of you make this and I would love to see some pics 🙂

 

*any vanilla extract will do

** freeze the egg whites and instant meringue ingredients! 😊 

#foodblogger #babka #lifeiswhatyoubakeit #chocolate #cinnamon #ginger #jewishfood #seinfeld #pandorabakes #homebaked #bakedwithlove #bakingtherapy #mindfulness #gratitude

 

 

Nutella Chocoliscious Brownies


So anyone who knows me or has read my previous posts will know why I dreaded today’s bakes as I cannot stand my paws covered in melted chocolate, and by saying covered I actually mean even the tiniest morsel on a single claw fills me with horror 😩😩😩!  Melted chocolate has a mind of its own in my experience and I always find it on things / in places it does not belong nor has it been anywhere near! 😡

However, at the request of Mr&MrsH I agreed to produce a Chocolate Cheesecake (blog to follow) and Chocolate Brownies for our upcoming visit………(there better be lots of red wine!😂)……Oooo and we will be playing Cards Against Humanity which is described online as “a party game for horrible people”!!!!!  Sugar + Wine + Game + Terrible Sense of Humour = Hilariousness!

This recipe really is super duper (or super dooper?…hmmmm) easy and would be great to make with little mini humans and the best thing about home baked goodies is that we know exactly what is in them……who am I kidding with the Mother Earth type chat, I grew up in the 70’s and 80’s when microwave meals were posh and a balanced breakfast was a roll and jam whilst walking to school. Shock horror we made it to adulthood whilst eating way too many packs of Tayto’s (often between 2 pieces of WHITE bread slathered in butter), sweets with no nutritional value and drinking Alpine illuminous juice…….but each to your own!

Anyway enough of my chitter chatter, let’s get on with the recipe for these babies.

Ingredients 

80g Soft Unsalted Butter

100g Soft Brown Sugar

90g Plain Flour

10g Cocoa Powder

2 Large Free Range Eggs (room temperature…..please don’t let me rant about fridge eggs again!)

1tsp Vanilla Extract

1/2 tsp salt

150g chopped chocolate (I used a mix of Galaxy, leftover Quality Street and White Chocolate)

400g Nutella

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 175c/350F/ Gas 4.

2. Grease and line a 9″ Brownie Pan. (If you don’t have a square brownie pan, just use a 8 or 9 inch cake tin).

3. Using a paddle beater or hand mixer combine the butter and sugar until lighter in colour and fluffy – in my kenwood this takes 3 minutes and with and electric hand beater it takes 5-7 minutes……..if you have the urge to do old school with a wooden spoon, say goodbye to 15 minutes of your life you will never get back!

4. Add the eggs and vanilla slowly and continue beating till combined – don’t worry if it looks slightly curdled-esque as this will be fine.

5. Add 320g of the Nutella and beat till light and fluffy.

6. Combine the Cocoa Powder, Flour and Salt with 100g of the Chocolate Chips/chunks and fold into the brownie mix. Make sure everything is combined but don’t over mix! (Tip/Hint; seemingly you should only need to mix 8 figure of 8’s to combine ANY mixture….but let’s not be too fussy, just mix it well!).

7. Pour into the prepared brownie pan and level out.

8. Using a teaspoon put dollops of the remaining Nutella on the top of the brownie mix and using a toothpick drag squiggly patters over the top to lightly mix the Nutella into the mix – go easy as we want this to stay on the top! Then sprinkle the remaining chocolate chips/chunks over the top and place in the middle of the oven for 30-35 minutes.  As usual I rotated mine two thirds of the way through to combat my ridiculously crap oven!  Test the Brownies are ready by sticking a toothpick in and when you remove it there should be a couple of crumbs sticking to it, if it still looks like chocolate batter pop it in for another couple of minutes as you don’t want to overbake them!

9. Remove from the oven and place on a cooling rack, leave to cool in the brownie pan and once fairly cool remove and sprinkle with icing sugar and cut into preferred size, I get 12 large Brownies from this mix!  Keep in an airtight container and eat within 3 days – why would there ever be some left after 3 days???.?…..  If they are not all scoffed in day one, they are delicious warmed in the oven or microwave and served with cream/ice cream on day 2 and 3!

Hope you enjoy the Brownies and I look forward to seeing any photos on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram! 😊😊😊 Remember, life is what you bake it!
 

First bake of 2017! Cherrychoclisciousness!

Having been gifted my very own dot.com (pandorabakes.com don’t ya know….oh yes you do as you are here😂) from my best most successful bakes ever, aka my sons K&C,  I promised myself I would do a blog post every week and may (a very cautious may) be looking at vlogging too! Eeeek…..it’s a thought to start as the doubt is there – I mean who wants to hear my Lorraine Kelly/school teacher dulcet tones????

Anyhooo….to the kitchen we go!

Now before I start….does anyone else struggle to decide what to bake? Following a text to MrP the only guidance given was ” something we can take tonight to the family”…..thanks 😳! So after a gander in the now depressed empty fridge I gained inspiration from the jar of cherries in kirsch and a chocolate & cherry cake was the winning bake! 

Ingredients 

Sponge

240g soft unsalted Lurpak butter

180g self-raising flour

240g caster sugar

60 g cocoa powder

5 eggs 

Filling

Half a jar of Hartleys Black Cherry Jam

300ml double cream

Decoration

200g unsalted Lurpak soft butter

Half a jar of Hartleys Black Cherry Jam

300g icing sugar

2 packs of white chocolate fingers

2 packs of milk chocolate fingers

Box of maltesers (I used the small one but you need the large to fully cover the cake if you prefer that method…..personally I would have but couldn’t drag myself out to the shops again!)

Tip: I like to take my butter out the fridge a couple of hours before starting to allow it go soft and always use my eggs at room temperature!!!! I mean who keeps their eggs in the fridge? Obviously not me or Tesco or Asda or Sainsbury’s etc etc……do you feel my irritation at the stupid little egg trays supplied with every fridge which suggest your eggs belong here and Oh we have space for 8 – yes EIGHT eggs. Who sells or buys 8 eggs????

Method

1. Preheat your oven to 160c fan (180c conventional oven) and butter and line two 9″ cake tins.

2. Cream the butter and caster sugar till pale and fluffy – I always use myKenwood and K-Beater for this as it saves on time and sweat 😊

3. Sift the flour and cocoa together into a bowl and set aside

4. Add the eggs one at a time and between each egg add a tsp of the flour/cocoa mix to avoid that curdled looking batter!

5. Now fold in the remaining flour either by hand or using the K-Beater on slow speed fora minute or 2 (don’t over mix as this will make the cake heavy)

6. To ensure the tins have a (fairly) equal measure I use my ice cream scoop and divide evenly! In the past I have weighed each tin but surely life is too short for this precision…..don’t judge me for thisand I won’t judge you should you be a weighing type of person😊

7. Smooth the batter in the cake tins and spread it to the edge. (Do not tap or air bubbles as this can also result in a heavy cake!

8. Place the tins gently in the oven and leave for 25-30 minutes (as mentioned before I have a temperamental oven and rotate at around 20 minutes)

9. Remove the sponges from the oven and leave for 5 minutes to allow them to cool slightly before turning out onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool completely.

10. Now whip the double cream and loosen the cherry jam by mixing it in a bowl.

Tip: Always whip cream in a glass or metal cold bowl as it whips much quicker 😊 – yip this is a Granny tip, and therefore the Law!

11. Add the unsalted butter to your mixer and beat till pale and fluffy.

12. Sift the icing sugar into the butter and mix again till the volume has increased by half then add the jam to the butter icing and beat for another 2-3 minutes.

13. Cover the bottom sponge with jam (not too thick as it will simply escape when the weight from the whipped cream and top cake are added)

14. Carefully pipe the double cream onto the jam cake ensuring it is approx 1cm from the edge.

15. Position the top sponge pressing lightly down and place in the fridge for 5 minutes – this is my tidying time 😁 aka OCD kicks in like a whirling dervish!

16. Cover the cake with a fairly thin layer of butter icing using an icing pads or a palette knife and start to add the chocolate fingers around the cake. If they don’t stick you have not used enough butter icing so slabber it on some more😊!

17. Place the maltesers on the top of the cake, I misjudged how many I would need and therefor only placed them in a double layer at the edge d finished the cake with piped butter icing. Alternatively if this is being consumed by consenting adults only, top with lots of kirsch soaked cherries 🍒 for adult deliciousness 😊.

18. Tie some ribbon around the cake and leave in the fridge till needed!

19. Cut, serve and eat…….I am pleasantly informed that the cake was “The Best Yet!” By my StepMum-in-Law !

Is it a Muffin? Is it a Donut? No it’s a Muffnut!

Ok so I have made these many times and they were once described by my colleagues as the Class A Drug version of cake which I am sure was pertaining to their addictiveness and not the racing heart, sweats and rotting teeth…….although too many and I’m sure a cavity would appear as these babies are fully loaded with yummy sweetness!

I have tried various recipes and methods but eventually created my own as often they became heavy and too claggy and this does not go down well with MrP who always gives me honest feedback causing some minor huffs on my part (yes I’m a huffpot ) but once I’ve cheered up like Sleepy Jean I genuinely prefer the honesty! How can anyone learn and grow without some gentle direction? 

So MrP requested I provide some sweet delights for his colleagues to celebrate his final day in his old role (jings he is only moving down the corridor but these “Uniformed” sort love an excuse for food and cakes) and heaven forbid he should take a visit to the shelves of M&S (other supermarkets are available☺️) when he has MrsP aka Moi at home! So cake for 10ish people coming up! Given their career choice it seemed fitting to do a nod to the stereotypical treat of choice aka the Donut but with a snazzy Pandora twist! Plus I had yummy blueberry jam gifted from the rather generous and wonderfully supportive Hartleys so off we go!

(I have to point out I didn’t stop here as I also made a Gin&Tonic Lemon Drizzle Bundt Cake and a tray of Scottish Tablet – both blogs to follow 😀- they are a greedy gannet bunch)

Ingredients

  • 600g Homepride Self Raising Flour
  • 300g Billingtons Golden Caster Sugar
  • 350ml of Buttermilk (I make my own by pouring 2 1/2tsp lemon juice into the full fat milk and let sit for 5 mins – you will see it goes slightly curdled)
  • 2tsp Tesco Madagascan Vanilla Extract
  • 180ml Vegetable Oil ( you can use sunflower oil or rapeseed oil but not olive oil)
  • 2 Large Eggs
  • 1/2tsp Salt
  • Jar of Hartleys Blueberry Jam 
  • 200g Blueberries washed and with any stocks removed – once clean add a teaspoon of SR Flour and toss to coat as this stops them sinking to the bottom of the Muffnut when baking – one of many Granny tips to come  😀

Topping Ingredients

  • 100g Melted Unsalted Butter 
  • 100g Billingtons Golden Caster Sugar 
  • 20g Billingtons Light Muscavado Sugar (Light Soft Brown Sugar will be fine as I have used Tesco Light Soft Brown Sugar in the past and it was still perfect)
  • 1 1/2tsp Cinnamon 

Steps

  1. Pre-heat your oven to Fan 175c or Conventional Oven 180c
  2. Prepare your 12 muffin tins by using muffin liners and using a pastry brush coat the top of the tin in butter as the Muffins will overlap and this stops sticking the best crunchy part 😀
  3. Sift the flour, sugar and salt and mix together
  4. In a separate jug mix the oil with the buttermilk and vanilla using a whisk
  5. Add the wet ingredients to the dry using a spatula until combined and then mix well using either an electric mixer or by hand (1 minute electric OR 3 by hand) – don’t overwork the mix you just need everything combined like a thick batter. 
  6. Toss in the Blueberries and mix with the spatula gently
  7. Using an Ice-Cream Scoop fill the muffin cases by 1/3
  8. Using teaspoons gently place a blob of the jam in the middle of each 
  9. Then using the scoop fill the muffin cases by minimum 2/3 – I always fill to about 7/8ths 😂
  10. Bake in the over for around 25-30 mins but check when done using a skewer as it’s should be clean from batter- as I mentioned before my oven is banjaxed so I rotate mine 2/3rds of the way through cooking as my Granny always said you can’t open the oven till then or your cake will sink! So with the fear of bejeezus in me I wouldn’t dare!!!
  11. Once baked and smelling delicious remove and allow to cool.
  12. Melt the butter and place in a shallow dish with a pastry brush
  13. Mix the sugars and cinnamon together in another shallow dish
  14. When you can handle the Muffnuts remove from the tins and brush the top with melted butter and dip in the sugar concoction then set aside! (I double muffin case them after buttering and sugaring for ease of holding 😳 darn my stickyphobia)  If preferred you can remove the case and totally cover with butter and sugar up all over but as I’m not a fan of Sticky Icky Fingers I don’t do this and feel the extra would surely tip you over the Cavity Scale and I would be hunted by dentists!

These are nice warm (Ooo with Ice-Cream or cream or custard) but are equally yummy on their own the next day if kept in an air tight container!

I have also made these in the past by adding chopped white chocolate instead of blueberries and used Hartleys Raspberry Jam as the yummy centre, so feel free to experiment! ☺️☺️☺️

Let me know how you get on by leaving comments below and happy Muffnutting!



Informal Bakewell Tart

Having recovered from the Danish Pastry challenge following validation from my youngest who kindly proof tested each and declared they were a triumph, I contemplated making “Bakewell Tart” for a few days and during a rare outing with “himself” and a moment of weakness I purchased almond extract and ground almonds (please note this “moment of weakness” happens every time I am close by ANYTHING resembling baking ingredients☺️).  

The main issue I have is that having stayed with family in Hope Valley and visited the picture pretty town of Bakewell where they take this little tart (and it’s softer served warm cousin the Bakewell Pudding) rather seriously and based on the several “original recipes” for sale it looks a nothing like the GBBO version! I mean seriously even the local Spar attached to the petrol station has “The Original Recipe Bakewell Tart” for sale.

Sooooooo, as the ingredients winked, whistled and danced in front of me every time I was close by my baking dresser, I finally relented whilst dog sitting on a rainy Sunday and with a little fluffy Bonnie at my feet I washed my shiny new 23cm fluted loose bottom pie tin purchased by “himself” for me as a little surprise while grocery shopping in Sainsburys – further validation as to why I married him- and put on my oven!!!!

Now to start, the basic short crust recipe I use is not sweet – how much more different can it be I thought……hmm after considering no less than 30 recipes dating from The Grammes Have Come 1972 Winifred Graham (favourite book as it’s stuffed full of my mum’s old recipes handwritten on all sorts of debris paper and has conversion tables predating me) to Bake with Maw Broon created circa 1980 published 2014 ☺️ to my latest birthday gift from “K&V”, Martha Collison’s Twist 2016 I decided to go with a mix of all as the older recipes require Lard and having grown up with a veggie for a dad this simply feels like betrayal 😀!


Sweet Shortcrust Pastry 

–  250g plain flour

–  125g cold cubed butter (1oz butter + 1oz Trex/Lard – should your conscience allow)

–  125g icing sugar

–  pinch of salt – aka 1/4 tsp – I dislike the whole “pinch” which varies from nimble to chunky fingers

–  1 large egg yolk

–  4 tbsp icy cold water 

In a food processor pulse the flour, salt and butter till it looks like bread crumbs. Add the sugar and told and pulse till jus combined – NOW is the important part – add a Tbsp of cold water at a time till it starts to come away from the side and looks like a crumbly dough (don’t add too much as wet dough is hard to rescue for Shortcrust Pastry). Tip the contents on to a lightly floured surface and gently form into a smooth ball. Put in clingfilm or one of my favourite Zip Lock bags and chill for minimum 30 mins.

Lightly butter your tin using a pastry brush to cover all the little fluted crevices and sprinkle with plain flour. 

Preheat your oven to 160c fan or 170c conventional oven (gas mark 3-4).

Once your dough is firm and chilled, roll to 3-4mm (don’t go getting a ruler out just be brave and use your eye as it’s around a pound coin thickness-ish ). Lift by draping over your rolling pin (or wine bottle if that’s you’re tool. 😬) and carefully but quickly line the tin. I use leftover dough in a ball to press the dough into the corners as hot hands kill Shortcrust Pastry pastry. Prick with a fork on the base and I put it back in the fridge for 10 minutes.

Cut a circle of greaseproof paper larger than the tin and place over the pastry then cover with baking beans or as I use dried marrowfat peas (much cheaper) – bake for 15 minutes in/on the middle shelf then remove the paper and beans and put back in the over for 5 minutes.  Remove from the oven and after 5 minutes cover the inside base with fairly thin covering ie 2-3 tablespoons of good raspberry jam and set aside.

Frangipane Filling

– 100g unsalted butter

– 100g caster sugar

– 2 large eggs whisked

– 50g plain flour

–  75g ground almonds

– A drop of almond extract (Tip –  mix this into the whisked eggs)

Cream the butter and sugar till pale and light using either a K-beater or electric hand whisk (takes around 5 minutes with electric or 10 and blood sweat & tears by hand) add the eggs with almond extract and the plain flour and mix till combined and smooth and finally add the almonds. don’t over mix so all in all this takes around 7 minutes!

Now you want to get this covering the jam base with as little disruption as possible, so either use 2 spoons (as done in fairy cakes) or a icecream (mashed tattie scoop if you are Scottish/Irish decent 😀) or a piping bag with no nozzle just cut at the bottom leaving a pound coin size hole (see a trend forming here??). Once covered and (relatively) smooth pop in the oven for around 25-30 minutes. I twirl mine half way through as I have crappydooda oven. Once a skewer/toothpick/cake tester (yes I own one) comes out clean when put in the centre, it’s ready.  Leave to cool completely in the tin and then ice or not!

Icing

–  200g icing sugar

–  cold water

–  1/4 tsp almond extract or as I do a lid full

–  red food colouring

Mix the icing sugar with the almond extract and water till it films a thick pouring consistency. Pour 1/4 into a dish and mix in some red food dye to your preferred colour! (Careful this stains hands etc and is potent so a little goes a loooooong way). Pop this into either a squeeze nozzle bottle (I keep any home hair dye kit ones I don’t use and sanitise for this 😀) or pop into a piping bag/ freezer bag snipped at the corner leaving a knitting needle size hole. Drizzle the white icing over the tart and smooth the pastry edge, then using the red icing draw lines across create Feathering, take a tooth pick and drag down the lines in alternate direction. As you will see, due to my current shaky hands my first also product is very informal and homemade 😛! 

Once set remove from the loose bottom tin by placing over a small bowl and releasing The side of the tart tin. Eh voilà 🙌🙌🙌

#baking #bakingtherapy #pandorabakes #madeinscotland #ayrshire #pursuitofhappiness


A slither for the “Mither-in-law” on her vintage plate with one of my 3 trillion snazzy pastry forks! Quality testing of course!

Finally a little pic of “my bonnie Bonnie” 

Pastry Week

Anyone who follows me on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook will be aware of the complete obsession I have with baking and in particular The Great British Bake Off.  Every week myself and fellow twitterati attempt to replicate some of the delights on offer by the GBBO contestants using the #GBBOTwitterBakeAlong and as I failed the previous week due to a total boycott of “Batter Week” – Churros are more a choux pastry in my opinion (don’t get me started!) – I decided I would turn that frown upside down and get layering in a dough/butter kind of way!

I turned to the internet to browse the trillions of Danish Pastry recipes available, watched quite a few YouTube instructional videos and trawled many blogs to find the most straight forward recipe.  The favoured recipe it appears was by “Ole Blue Eyes” Paul Hollywood – tried, tested, blasted, applauded, and tweaked by many but straight forward enough!

http://paulhollywood.com/recipes/danish-pastry-dough/

Ingredients

– 500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

– 10g salt

– 80g caster sugar

– 10g instant yeast

– 2 medium eggs

– 90ml cool water

– 125ml tepid full-fat milk

– 250g chilled unsalted butter, preferably a good-quality Normandy butter

  1. Put the flour into the bowl of a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt and sugar to one side of the bowl and the yeast to the other. Add the eggs, water and milk and mix on a slow speed for 2 minutes, then on a medium speed for 6 minutes.
  2. Tip the flour out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a ball. Dust with flour, put into a clean plastic bag and chill in the fridge for an hour.
  3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out your chilled dough to a rectangle, about 50 x 20cm and about 1cm thick. Flatten the butter to a rectangle, about 33 x 19cm, by bashing it with a rolling pin. Lay the butter on the dough so that it covers the bottom two-thirds of it. Make sure that it is positioned neatly and comes almost to the edges.
  4. Fold the exposed dough at the top down one-third of the butter. Now gently cut off the exposed bit of butter, without going through the dough, and put it on the top of the dough you have just folded down. Fold the bottom half of the dough up. You will now have a sandwich of two layers of butter and three of dough. Pinch the edges lightly to seal in the butter. Put the dough back in the plastic bag and chill for an hour to harden butter.
  5. Take the dough out of the bag and put it on the lightly floured surface with the short end towards you. Now roll it out to a rectangle, about 50 x 20cm, as before. This time fold up one-third of the dough and then fold the top third down on top. This is called a single turn. Put the dough back in the plastic bag and chill for another hour. Repeat this stage twice more, putting the dough back into the fridge between turns.
  6. Your dough now needs to be left in the fridge for 8 hours, or overnight, to rest and rise slightly. It is then ready to use.

So I followed this pretty much to the letter (minus the 50x20cm and 33x19cm – my dough kept springing back fighting against any attempt at measuring) and following many book folds (the recipe mentions single folds however I generally alternate this with a book fold) and assistance from my dutiful husband 🙂 the dough was placed in the fridge to prove overnight.

In the morning I prepared all my fillings and set them aside to cool:

  1. Maple & Pecan – mix 80g of maple syrup with 80g of golden syrup, one egg yolk, 50g brown sugar (I used light muscavado), 80g butter and 40g double cream.  Bring to the boil slowly and boil for a few minutes till the colour of toffee.  Remove from the heat and mix with 90g crushed pecans (keep a few aside for garnish). I had a small amount of syrup left as don’t make the filling too wet – however the remaining syrup I kept to heat and make an icing drizzle later once baked.
  2. Creme Pat – I followed this recipe http://www.greatbritishchefs.com/how-to-cook/how-to-make-a-creme-patissiere and split the mixture into two.  I added 90g of melted white chocolate to one for the Raspberry Pinwheels and the other mixture was added to the Apple & Raspberry Swirls.
  3. Apple & Sultana – chop one brambley apple (any apple will do so don’t stress about having brambley) and put in a pan with 3 tablesppos of water, couple of handfuls of sultanas, teaspoon of cinnamon, tablespoon of ground almonds, knob of butter and heat gently till the apple is soft and the mixture starts to resemble toddler food 😉 – leave to cool.

I split my enormous dough into 3 and started the process of cutting shaping and final proving before baking.  I really did “wing it” with the designs in all honesty as I have the arty touch (or so my biased parents say) and the Pinwheel was pretty easy to master and looks impressive once baked, the plaits however did look like mummified corpses I’m afraid…..I added the mixture before proving all the pastries other than the Raspberry & Creme Pat as I added this just before baking – no reason other than my gut instinct said so lol! (Or maybe I forgot 🙂 )

Little tip for proving your dough in Scotland in autumnal temperatures – Turn on your oven to high for one minute and then turn off, place the shaped dough in the oven with a small pan of boiled water and close the door – I use this method for bread alot!  Or if you have a separate small oven/grill above your main oven, place the trays of dough in here while the lower oven is pre-heating as the rising heat worked wonders with mine and I always pre-heat for minimum 40 minutes given that I have a slightly temperamental old oven.

All in all I can say I found the puff/croissant/danish pastry making pretty enjoyable.  the dough has a lovely texture to handle and having recently broken my Brioche Virginity (post to come later) I discovered the joy of starting a bake one day and ending it the next…..it was a recipe requiring slow gentle attention with intermittent rolling and folding. The pastries turned out rather good with apricot glaze, drizzled chocolate and maple icing and my husbands workies have been treated today with the goodies!  P.s. I am a total feeder in an Irish/Scottish/Jewish mother kind of way – eating is not optional when you visit 🙂

Here we go……..

So as I lie on my bed recuperating from a mystery long illness, it feels like now is the right time to start my baking blog given that it takes very little physical effort and I have procrastinated long enough!  As I investigated the options for themes, sites, logos, colour schemes, fonts, widgets (still not sure what this is)…..I gained HUGE admiration for my fellow bloggers.  This is not a 10 minute job folks!!!!! A Place in The Sun, Jeremy Kyle, It’s Me Or the Dog and The Real Housewives of Everywhere will need to be put to the side for the foreseeable future while I get to grips with this long awaited blog.

Wish me luck and I hope anyone who stumbles or accidentally clicks on my blog finds it interesting, funny, informative and grammatically correct 🙂