Friday, 30 March 2018

Bake of the Month - Hot Cross Buns

We're not a religious household, but I do love to keep the old traditions, especially around food. Good Friday is traditionally the day to eat these bread buns. The cross signifies the crucifixion, and the spices reflect Jesus's embalming. 

I originally planned to follow Felicity Cloake's masterclass recipe, but then I was given a jar of sourdough starter, from a batch that is as old at The Gentleman Farmer and I. So I fetched out my copy of James Morton's Brilliant Bread, and made the buns from there. 

You may remember James from the BBC BakeOff - he was the one with the Fair Isle jumpers. I'm not usually drawn to TV book tie-ins, but borrowed this one from the library, and had to have a copy.

This recipe uses sourdough starter, and dried yeast, with an overnight prove. Sounds like a lot of faff, but they were straightforward; they took a long time to make, but almost all of that was the yeasts doing their work. 

First off, I mixed the flour, eggs, salt, butter and yeasts, with some milk and honey. Using the doughhook on my Kenwood, I kneaded for 5 minutes. I covered with a shower cap, and left the dough in the fridge overnight to prove. 

Next morning, I added the spices and dried fruit, and shaped into 12 buns. 

They were then covered with a tea towel, and left to rise for a couple of hours. 

They were then baked at the top of a moderate Aga for about 25 minutes. 

While they were still warm, I brushed them with a glaze, and piped on a cross, in lemon icing.

Delicious served warm, with butter and a mug of tea. 

While I was searching for James Morton's book, I discovered that he has another - I appear to have just bought that, too. Happy Easter!

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Vernal Equinox

Spring, you have been a long time coming, and we are so pleased to see you.

The days are lengthening; there's a real warmth when the sun comes out; there are lambs. We've started planting seeds; we have seed potatoes chitting, and onion sets waiting for planting. And there are lambs.

We still have plenty of snow around, but the spring bulbs are in full flower - snowdrop, crocus, iris, and dwarf narcissus. The daffodils are just waiting to flower. And did I mention, the lambs?

Thursday, 8 February 2018

Big Garden Birdwatch

Since we've sited a bird feeding station outside the kitchen window, washing the dishes has become much more enjoyable. We have a peanut feeder and a seed feeder, which are visited by plenty of birds. Last week was the annual Big Garden Birdwatch, organised by the RSPB. The idea is that you watch birds (and other wildlife) for one hour, and count what you see.

In our hour, we saw chaffinch

blue tits

great tits

The birds which we see currently, but were absent through our hour were, long tailed tits, up to 12 at a time. My personal favourite. 

Gold finch

Green finch

woodpecker, both male and female





Anyone else take part? What do you have in your garden?

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Bake of the Month - Christmas Cake

We have tried several festive recipes over the years. This year, I used Delia's for cake; Nigel's for pudding (not online, but it includes glace cherries and preserved ginger); and Nigella's for mince pies. The decorations are courtesy of the Gentleman Farmer and MasterW - understated minimalist for 2017.

Thank you to all of you who've asked after my health. I'm currently having injections every 3 weeks, which will finish in the spring. These are making me tired, but apart from that I'm feeling very well.

All of us at The Ladybird Farm would like to wish all our readers a very Merry Christmas, and a happy, healthy and peaceful 2018.

Thursday, 30 November 2017

Bake of the /month - Auntie Cath's Ginger Cake

I love ginger. Love Yorkshire. But I don't care for parkin. I much prefer ginger cake, and save the oats for flapjack. This recipe is a favourite in our house, given to me by my sister. I've taken the liberty of adding some crystallised ginger which gives a nice pop of warmth.

50g golden syrup
150g black treacle
100g Demerara sugar
75g butter
2 eggs
200g plain flour
2Tbsp ground ginger
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
50g chopped crystallised ginger

1. Mix the syrup, treacle, sugar and butter over a very low heat, until just melted.

2. Cool slightly and add the remaining ingredients, and mix well.

3. Pour into a lined tin, and bake at gas 4 for 25 minutes until a knife comes out clean.

A great teatime treat, or serve warm with vanilla ice cream.

Friday, 3 November 2017

Glut in the Garden - Aga Dried Tomatoes

We love the sun dried tomatoes that you can buy, jarred in oil. We are still harvesting tomatoes, so I thought I'd have a go at drying some in the Aga. I used this method.

I picked rip, but still firm tomatoes, with no blemishes.

I halved them and placed cut-side up on a baking sheet (lined with Magic Liner), and sprinkled lightly with salt. 

I then put this tray into the simmering oven (or the lowest oven setting) for about 10 hours, until the tomatoes were dry, but before they were completely leathery. 

The tomato flavour really intensified. we ate several of these fresh from the oven, and the rest livened up a batch of passata. Next time, I'll try packing some into oil, and see how well they keep.