sweet potato brownies

spbrownies

For a few especially frantic, especially sleep-deprived weeks now Pablo has been on school dinners instead of packed lunch. Apart from apparently being pretty "cool" when you're 4, school dinners seem to have this amazing power to send him home at the end of the day starving hungry and with such miserably low blood sugar that I have regularly considered selling him to the nearest circus rather than hear one more second of whinge. Maybe this is because every day seems to be pasta, sweetcorn and jelly? Who knows, but it was evident that I had to man up and start packing a lunchbox again. 

The worst bit about the lunchbox is the snacky bit. I don't like buying the palm-oil-filled overpriced kids' snacks from the supermarket, but I do love to bake…duh…so am always on the lookout for some kind of "healthy" treat that takes as little time as possible to whip up. I adapted this recipe from one by the insanely gorgeous Deliciously Ella, who is a goldmine of adventurous, nutritious ideas. And I promise these are totally yummy, and most importantly Pablo thought they were an actual brownie and felt like he was getting a really serious treat…when they are technically a health food. So, proceed….

spbrownieings

Sweet Potato Brownies

2 medium sweet potatoes
2/3 cup ground almonds
1/2 cup buckwheat flour
14 pitted dates
4 tbsp raw cacao
4 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp coconut oil
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 180C. Peel the sweet potatoes, cut them into chunks and steam them for about 25 minutes, until they are completely soft. Place them in a food processor with the dates and blend until smooth. 

Add all the remaining ingredients to a bowl and fold in the potato/date goo. Fully line a tin (I went for 10x10 and you wouldn't want any bigger or the brownies will be too thin, unless you double the recipe) with baking parchment and spread in your mix as evenly as possible. 

spbrownieprecook

Bake the brownies for about 20 minutes, or until a skewer comes out dry. Let them mostly cool in the tin before removing and chopping them up. For a bit of added glamour I painted them with a dry brush and some edible bronze lustre - this is always a good tip for making brownies more fancy! If you do so, do it before you cut them up or you'll be in a world of stress. 

Totally delicious, totally healthy…and also totally vegan, should you need that box ticked too. I might try adding some desiccated coconut next time… already planning a next time...

Crush of the now

Capture_025.jpg

I seem to be a bit fickle with my lust for new things - sometimes there are so many gorgeous things out there that I could post ten crushes a week, but then…nothing…for months. Or I suddenly decide I just don't really want any new things, apart from a very very VERY long holiday in Mexico. So this can become Crush of the Now… for whenever I see something I can't resist. 

At the moment it's What Mother Made - totally handmade and totally gorgeous kids clothes. I had an extremely hard time resisting some of their last collection on my weekly visits to Mother's Hub (E17 folk - beware, if you visit, it's FULL of irresistible small clothing), but these new Spring/Summer bits may be more than I can bear. Little colourful dungarees and crazy pantaloons that are perfect for summertime adventures. Now to find them in my size….

Baking Daddy's cake

IMG_2273.JPG

Happy birthday to King Squid, my lovely husband Konch. We made him a crazy little cake - chocolate chip funfetti sponges filled with peanut butter cream and vanilla cream frosting. I make cakes eternally but always much more fun to get the littles involved and go a bit bonkers. This time we cut shapes from fondant, left them to dry, then decorated them with edible markers and squished them around the cake. Yummy and fun and a big success… 

land of kids

Half term is always the best, apart from being about 5 weeks too short. And the fact that everyone else is on half term too, which means that anything even vaguely desirable to do in London is totally heaving and usually sold out 6 months before you've even thought of doing it. But despite this, we packed our sacks of snacks and braved a trip to the South Bank Imagine Children's Festival, not for the *awesome* Grandpa Joe's Giant Storytelling Bed for Roald Dahl tales & epic bouncing, because I absolutely didn't get my act together in time and it was long sold out. However, for mums like me there was the fabulous Land of Kids pop up - totally free and unbookable and all over the Royal Festival Hall. YAY! 

IMG_2030.jpg

After fighting through the swarms of toddlers and buggies and agitated mums to park up and feed our gaggle buns and grapes and sandwiches (and ourselves very large coffees) until everyone was on a lovely blood sugar high and ready to rock, we headed up to Pirate School and let them loose. I haven't laughed so much in a long time, as the pirates dressed even little Indy in bandanas, patches and gold then led them on a rampage around the room ("Captain's coming! Scrub the decks!" etc). Lost & Found are the force behind the pirates, and I hear they even do parties so get in touch! The kids were too exhausted afterwards to even face the magical cardboard city building that we'd stuck on the agenda next, but seeing the vast kid-crafted cardboard kingdom stretching across the floor was pretty magnificent. Then it was off to get amazing churros and visit the baby animal petting zoo, cleverly avoiding the face painting…

Why can't half term be every week???

Saxon's very first wishes

The imagined desires of my few-weeks-old nephew

1. Lovely, healing, natural bath soak for mama - Vital Touch Natalia New Mother Bath Soak £14

2. Ingenious invention to turn any top into a breastfeeding friendly top - Breast Vest £15

3. A little outfit for the babe that's a bit of a treat for you both - Oeuf NYC Superhero jumpsuit

4. A very first BFF from Polka Dot Club 

5. Nice comfy changing mat, since he'll be spending so much time there - Farg & Form, £38.50

6. No such thing as too many blankets - Zebra quilt by Ketiketa from Shak Shuka, 50euros

And… something lovely & a bit monochrome to hang on his wall... Perhaps a beautiful Jon Klassen print...

size500_prints_JonKlassen_TheDark_titlepage_main.jpg

For the lovers...

image.jpg

Happy Valentine's Day all you beautiful folk out there! Whether you are spending it wallowing in bouquets and love letters, or out looking for someone to kiss, or home doing not much at all (or home baking like a maniac, then rewarding yourself with steak and chips, like me...) it is, at the very least, a fantastic excuse to make something ridiculously delicious, ridiculously pink and very heart shaped. So here's a recipe. 

These are basically croissant-doughnut love children. I can't use the word C**nut because it's been mega-TMed, so I'll call these Cronies. Because they're smaller than the original, and also because the urban dictionary defines Cronie as "a follower, not a leader. The opposite of a hustla" and these are definitely little followers of the famous Cronut... An illustrative example given is:

I'm a hustla homie,
you a customer, cronie. 

(Jay-Z)

Ok, so now we are all on the same page... 

Cherry, Rose & Vanilla Cronies

Recipe adapted from the marvellous Boy Who Bakes
makes about 10 heart shaped cronies

Although these aren't especially difficult to make, they do have many different aspects and take over 24 hours to sort out, so bear that in mind before embarking. If you do set out on the long road to heaven, however, you'll be extremely glad... First up is the dough. This needs to rest in the fridge twice - once overnight - so start the afternoon of the day before you want to eat them!

For the dough:
60ml milk - body temp
65ml water - body temp
6g dry active yeast
125g plain flour
125g strong bread flour
30g caster sugar
.5tsp salt
150g unsalted butter
To fry:
500ml oil - rapeseed or groundnut

Mix together the milk, water and yeast and set aside. In a larger bowl mix the flours, salt and sugar. Cut the butter into chunks about 2cm square, and using a pastry cutter blend them into the flour/sugar mix very briefly - you want to see large 1cm-ish chunks of butter, so don't go making it into breadcrumbs. Once the butter is combined, add the milk/water/yeast mix and combine with a spatula, then knead with your hands briefly to form a ball of dough. It's essential the butter stays cold and chunky throughout, so only the bare minimum of hand-touching please. Titillating, I know... Now pop the ball of dough back in the bowl, cover with cling film and put into the fridge for a few hours - I'd say minimum 4. At this stage, if you can, make all the other bits & bobs:

to sugar:
50g caster sugar
1/4 tsp rose extract
(or you can use rose sugar if you have a jar)
cinnamon
to ice:

icing sugar
maraschino cherry syrup
cherries
edible glitter
pasteurised egg white 

Mix the sugar and rose extract in a bowl. You could also use rose sugar if you have some, or rosewater, just add to taste - you want it to be pretty dry, so only add a little at a time. Finish with a dash of cinnamon, again to taste. I find one large shake is good. In a separate bowl mix a tablespoon of syrup from a jar of maraschino/cocktail cherries with a tablespoon of water, then add enough icing sugar (sifted) to form a thick paste, a similar consistency to toothpaste is ideal. If you want you can also add a tiny bit of pink gel colour. Tip onto a square of cling film and roll at each end, making it airtight. Keep this in an airtight container until you need it. 

If you want to make glittery cherries to top your cronies, use a paintbrush to brush the cherries with pasteurised egg white and then a dry brush to add edible glitter. You can also use edible glaze or an icing sugar/water solution in place of the pasteurised egg white but I find them less effective and messier. 

IMG_0039.jpg

to fill:
250ml full fat milk
1 vanilla pod
3 egg yolks
60g caster sugar
25g plain flour

Now for the yummy vanilla creme patissiere filling. Scrape the vanilla pod into the milk in a small saucepan, then add the pod itself. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and sugar until pale and creamy, then add the flour and mix until smooth. Heat the milk to just under the boil (it will start to steam a bit and small bubbles will form around the edge). Slowly pour half the milk into the egg/sugar mix, whisking throughout, then slowly add the rest. Return the whole lot to the pan and bring to the boil, whisking continuously. Keep at the boil for one minute, whisking the whole time, then remove to a clean bowl, scoop out the pod and cover the surface with greaseproof paper (pressed onto the surface of the custard, to prevent a skin from forming). Leave to cool at room temp, then pop into the fridge until you need it. 

Before heading to your bed, remove the dough from the fridge and roll it out on a floured surface into a rectangle approx 20cm x 40cm. Then fold the short edges towards each other, as though you are folding a letter to post. Turn the dough 90 degrees and roll it out again. Repeat this process until the dough has been turned a total of three times, then return to the fridge, wrapped in cling film, overnight. 

image.jpg

Wake up! It's time to roll out your dough! On a floured surface, to approx 1cm thick. Then use your cutter of choice to cut the little cronies out, and place them on an oiled and floured baking tray to prove. You can squidge up and re-roll the dough, but don't expect as flawless results and don't let it get too warm from handling. Usually these messier looking ones are the tastiest, so it's worth it.  

The proving process takes however long it takes - it all depends on how warm your kitchen is. If it's very cold, you can try popping them into the oven at 30 degrees but keep a close eye. Mine take anywhere from 25 mins to 45 mins to puff up - you can check by giving them a gentle prod. You don't want them to have too much or too little give. Over-proving will give you big heavy lumps, so be vigilant and keep practicing. 

Heat your oil in a deep saucepan until it reaches 170C. It's pretty essential to use a thermometer as the oil can rapidly become too hot and burn the cronies, or cool down so much that it makes them greasy. Around 160-180C is optimum. Add two or three at a time and cook until golden brown, about a minute and a half per side. Remove to drain on racks with kitchen paper beneath to catch the grease.

As soon as they are cool enough to handle, roll the edges of the cronies in the rose sugar. I find a wide paintbrush helps to get this neat and even. Then leave to cool completely. 

IMG_0042.jpg

Once absolutely, definitely cool, use a food syringe to fill the cronies with your delicious vanilla custard. I usually make a hole right in the middle top, as this will then be covered by your cherry icing. Pop your icing into a piping bag and pop a thick swirl on each. It dries super fast so be ready to add your sparkly cherries, or any other topping, asap after piping. And....enjoy! But make sure you eat them same day, they aren't too happy after a night alone in some tupperware. 

If you're not aiming for perfection, this is absolutely something the littles can get involved in, especially the cutting out and icing. And the eating, of course... 

IMG_0024.jpg

Hello Saxon

mama, papa & Saxon

mama, papa & Saxon

A belated welcome to my beautiful little nephew Saxon, who was born on 2nd January. He's just a little teeny fella but already full of wonder and enchanting all of us - especially the squids, who are desperate to see their new cousin whenever they can, and then sit gazing at his perfect little face and expressing their amazement at the super softness of his hair as they stroke him. The love, devotion and instinct to protect him that is already very noticeable in Indy & Pablo is so incredible to witness, and their keenness for him to grow so that they can gather him into their little band of mischief & teach him all their tricks is gorgeous. It's also strange to be reminded of those early days, cosying down indoors as a little family, feeding and recovering and getting to know a whole new little human, it's so difficult and so magical all at once, I can't decide whether I miss it or not! Well done Xander & Zara. Love love love...

cookie monster

Nom

Nom

I've been being all January and taking a long, hard look at our eating habits. It's so easy with kids to slip into a routine where every meal is based around wheat and cow's milk, the two things we are supposed to try and have less of. Not to mention the horrible hidden sugar in everything from bread to baked beans. So it's been a month of learning new, quick recipes and making things from scratch, and actually it's been really fun. I got this fab Gwyneth Paltrow cook book, which is full of super fast, mega tasty family friendly meals and snacks. I must have made about 15 of the recipes so far and have yet to be disappointed. I know, I know, everyone loves to roll their eyes at Gwyneth - and she invites it, to a degree, with the inclusion of phrases such as "Like a prize, a perfectly ripe avocado emerged from Gwyneth's carry-on" errrm - but I bloody love her, especially for this book. Seriously. Try it. 

I've been loving the soups, the endless avocado and quinoa feasts, but sometimes you need a cookie. Especially if you are a hyperactive smalley. Or a little boy with a lunchbox. So today Indy and I baked up a batch of invented biscuits, and they were so completely delicious that I had to share… 

Raring to go...

Raring to go...

Monster biscuits

110g gluten-free plain or self raising flour (we use Dove's Farm)
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
75ml coconut oil
3 tbsp raw honey
75ml maple syrup
2 tsp vanilla
1 large egg
grated zest of half an orange 
50g oats
50g grated carrots
50g raisins
1 mashed banana

Mix together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt in a small bowl, and set aside. In a big bowl, mix the coconut oil, honey, maple syrup and vanilla. Try not to let your toddler eat it all at this stage - this is the most challenging bit of this recipe. Add the egg, the orange zest & mashed banana and give it a good mix.

Next add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix until well incorporated. Then mix in the oats, raisins and grated carrot. Indy was pretty into pinching these out of the bowl too… Once all is mixed, add dollops (approx 1 tbsp) to a cookie sheet - ours is nonstick (but a bit haggard) and we didn't bother greasing it, which worked out fine.  Bake at 170C for 12 minutes, then place on a rack to cool. 

Having made this kind of "healthy" biscuit before, with varying degrees of success, I wasn't expecting them to be so incredibly tasty. They were soft and sweet and tasted like the best home made oatmeal raisin cookies I've had. And they were quick to make, and a fun activity with a crazy toddler. Hopefully Gwyneth would approve, too… 





Christmastime 2013

Sparkly mince pies, breakfast cronuts, prezzies galore, venison feast, baked alaska, dancing, wine & merry times… Happy Christmas 2013, and hello 2014!

indiana's christmas wishes

Unknown-5.jpeg

What every almost-two-year-old requires from Father Christmas...

1. The blanket of dreams to go on her new 'big girl' bed... by Roxy Marj

2. A book that looks suspiciously like it might be about her... Wild by Emily Hughes, £11.99 here

3. The means to dress up like Marie Antoinette in this princess dress... by H&M, £34.99 

4. These rainbow boots that I actually want for myself... by Nathalie Verlinden from Sugar on Snow

5. A Fisher Price record player so she can spin me some tunes during our daily dance offs... available on ebay

6. A new winter hat to keep her head warm whist she plots her next adventure. One with fur ears seems reasonable... 29 euros from Bobo Choses

And... this completely beautiful cherry play kitchen  in which to whip up some treats for her mama, $289.99 from Palumba 

© 2012 the squids. licensed under the creative commons. you may not take images or content from this site without written permission.