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All this talk about breakfast has made me a little hungry…

There are probably a million and one things I could have slathered these puffy little pancakes with. But today I was just in the mood for maple syrup:

The only burning question is: Who gets the sacrificial pancake?*

American Breakfast Pancakes from How to be a Domestic Goddess by Nigella Lawson

Makes around 12 pancakes

You’ll need:

225g plain flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
30g butter, melted and cooled
300ml milk
butter for frying

Two way of doing this:

1. Put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz.

or

2. Put the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar together in a bowl. Then beat in the eggs, milk and melted butter.

3. Transfer the mix to a jug. Or I used a quarter cup to scoop up the batter and make sure I got similarly-sized pancakes

4. Melt some butter in a frying pan and get cooking! Turn over the pancakes when the upper side is blistering and bubbling. The second side may only need a minute to brown. 

* In our house, that would be Mr B. He’s noble like that.

granola with chocolate

I made Molly’s chocolate granola last week as a present for my mum. Unlike me, she’s a hard-wired early bird and actively enjoys breakfast. So I thought I’d make something that was a little bit luxurious but would still work well for every day.

After packing a Kilner jar to the brim, there was plently left over. So now it has become my morning treat too 🙂

How do you like to start the day? Are you a coffee-and-cigarette kind of person (Mr B.) or do you dig into something more substantial? What’s your favourite breakfast of all time?

Danish pastry

Ta da! Finally… A day late in posting – June’s Daring Baker challenge to make a Danish Braid. And what a delicious challenge it was 🙂

My tiny recipe tweaks included:

– nearly an extra cup of flour to get the dough to a kneadable consistency

– using a pear and raisin filling instead of apple

Pear-cinnamon-raisin filling in the danish pastry
It worked beautifully – I was happy with my results as a first-timer on this sort of pastry. I particularly liked the the feel of the dough under my hands, gradually getting softer and more velvety-gorgeous as it absorbed the butter with each ‘turn and roll’. A very therapeutic activity for a Sunday afternoon.

Tastewise, it was a big hit as well (to take these photos, I had to fend off Mr B. before he chomped the lot). Not at all yeasty, which was something I was slightly worried about at the beginning of this challenge. The only thing that I wish I’d done differently was keep a better eye on the oven, as the braid came out a lot darker that I would have liked – and that’s hardly the recipe’s fault! A year after getting our oven and I still forget that it gets super-hot…

This month’s challenge definitely pushed me outside my shortcrust comfort zone and I’d like to try more variations on this recipe – if I can get myself organised, that is! In fact, at the excellent suggestion of Rachel, I’ve stashed the other half of the dough in the freezer for croissants next weekend. And Lorrie made cinnamon rolls with her leftovers… Oooh – it’s all very tempting!

Thanks to Kelly of Sass & Veracity and Ben of What’s Cooking? for a memorable challenge! For the full recipe, plus handy ‘as you go’ photos, here’s Kelly’s excellent post. Now, check out the rest of the DB gang on the blogroll. It never ceases to amaze me how we can all make the one recipe with such different and wonderful results 🙂

rhubarb and walnut muffins

If you’d been a fly on the wall, or rather in the car, at the weekend, you’d have heard this passionate defense of my native county:  

‘But, but, but… the rhubarb triangle of Yorkshire really does exist!’

Mr B. didn’t believe me. (In fact, he was laughing so hard at the idea of a triangle dedicated to rhubarb that he nearly crashed the car.) And even now, I think he’s humouring me the way you do with kids and Santa (‘Sure, honey, of course it exists… Whatever you say…’).

Ah well, us true believers will have our day 🙂  (Check out this, this and… this if you’d like to know more.)

In the meantime, we can celebrate with these plain but rather tasty muffins – the sweet/sharp tang of the rhubarb plays nicely off the walnuts, and the handful of wheatgerm makes you feel a little bit virtuous and able to justify them as breakfast treats (although I very rarely need to justify eating delicious baked goods…).

Rhubarb muffins from It’s Raining Plums by Xanthe Clay

Makes 12 muffins

You’ll need:

250g soft brown sugar
120ml vegetable oil
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
225ml buttermilk or plain yogurt
170g rhubarb, diced into 1cm pieces
80g walnuts, chopped (optional)
280g plain flour
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp baking powder
40g wheatgerm

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200C/400F. Grease or line a twelve-cup muffin tin.

2. In a large bowl, mix the sugar, oil, egg, vanilla extract and buttermilk or yogurt.

3. Stir in the rhubarb and nuts.

4. Sift over the flour, baking powder and bicarbonate of soda, and add the wheatgerm. Fold together until just blended but still rather lumpy and uneven looking. Spoon into the muffin tin and bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

5. Leave for 5 minutes to cool before removing from the tin and scoffing.

Cook’s notes

I can’t find any forced rhubarb. I’ve had my eyes peeled for the last couple of months but I’ve seen nothing. Apparently, there’s no difference in taste between unforced and forced rhubarb, but the latter is much prettier for cooking with, being that much pinker. And it’s probably just my imagination but the unforced version tastes a bit more sour. Anyone else know where I can get some of the good stuff?

cranberry and pistachio granola

… it’s off to work I go.

For, oh yes, ladies and gentlemen, I have a brand new, shiny job – starting today. A new job with new people. Hope they’re going to be nice to the new girl in her new suit 🙂

Of course, as every blogger knows, there’s nothing so irritating as real life* – it gets in the way of the truly important stuff like writing up insightful, witty posts, surfing the net for hours on end and leaving pithy comments on other blogs. A job is going to take out, oooooooh, at least seven or eight hours of perfectly good internet time every day. There could be withdrawal symptoms – although I suspect they’re going to keep me too busy to notice.

However, I’m determined to keep up the cooking and the blogging – it’s far too much fun to give up now. But if there’s a big gap between one post and the next, it’s because I’m fast asleep on a mountain of laundry, a piece of toast in one hand and a spreadsheet in the other, trying to juggle that mythical state of being known as ‘the life/work balance’. Though everyone else seems to manage it, so it shouldn’t be too bad (famous last words). Right?

On the plus side, I have a whole new set of people to inflict my baking on…

carnberry and pistachio granola

Naturally, I need something to lure me out of the bed in the morning (it’s been a loooooooong eight months of unemployment), so here’s what I’ll be eating for breakfast over the next week to break myself in gently to the new routine:

Cranberry and pistachio toasted muesli from the Donna Hay magazine, issue 34

Serves 4

You’ll need:

60g unsalted butter
1/3 cup honey
250g rolled oats
1/2 cup slivered almonds
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
3/4 cup chopped pistachio nuts

1. Preheat the oven to 160C/320F/gas mark 3.

2. Place the butter and honey in a small saucepan over a low heat and stir until the butter is melted.

3. Place the oats, almonds and coconut in a large bowl, pour over the butter mixture and toss well to combine.

4. Spread evenly over the base of a baking dish and bake for 10 minutes. Stir and bake for a further five to 10 minutes, or until crisp and golden.

5. Allow to cool and stir through the cranberries, pumpkin seeds and pistachios.

6. Serve with milk and yogurt. Can be stored in an airtight container for up to one week.

Cook’s notes

I’m not the world’s biggest fan of coconut, so I reduced it a little bit and upped the cranberries/pistachios instead.

*The other thing we all know is not to blog about work or it will get us slung out the door. Let’s just say I think it’s going to be hard work but fun 🙂

Barefoot Contessa’s voluptuous orange yogurt

I don’t know about you, but I’ve got a list as long as my arm of delicious things from other bloggers that I’d love to make. Then there are all the recipes in my cookbooks that are neatly tabbed and waiting on their time to shine. And let’s not even go looking for that box file bulging with clippings from various magazines and newspapers that I’ve collected over the years.* 

High time, perhaps, to make some inroads into my recipe mountain.

Kickpleat over at Everybody Likes Sandwiches has a great post about a voluptuous orange yogurt from the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, which I bookmarked a while back. As well as being on my ‘must make’ list, this fitted the bill perfectly for a little lazy pottering around the kitchen before settling down with the Sunday papers. A good place to start.

The only difficult thing about this recipe is remembering to set the yogurt up to strain overnight, or for three hours minimum, in order to achieve a thick, creamy consistency. But that’s not too much effort to make in exchange for something that tastes both a little bit decadent and quite healthy too 🙂

Voluptuous orange yogurt from the Barefoot Contessa via Everybody Loves Sandwiches

You’ll need:

1 large container of plain yogurt (I used Glenisk)
1 orange, zested and juiced (I just used half the juice as my orange was quite large)
1/4 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup almonds, chopped
2 tablespoons dried cherries (I didn’t have any, so I used dates instead)
1 to 2 tablespoons honey

1. Line a sieve with cheesecloth and suspend over a bowl. (Or follow Kickpleat’s excellent suggestion of using a coffee pot and filter. I just used a very closely meshed plastic sieve and crossed my fingers.) Add yogurt and let drain overnight/for at least three hours.

2. Throw out liquid and add the remaining ingredients, stirring well. Serve with granola or fresh fruit.

*One day in the far-off future, archaeologists will unearth this box and surmise that we all lived on endless variations of chocolate cake and worshipped a bespectacled high priest by the name of Nigel Slater. But really, is that so far away from the truth?

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I'm short of stature (a family trait) but big of appetite (also a family trait). If you're reading this then you're probably big of appetite too. Or a member of my family (hello Mum).
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