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Monday, 7 November 2016

CARAMEL APPLE & WALNUT PIES | AN ALTERNATIVE TO A MINCE PIE THIS HOLIDAY SEASON!



So Halloween is over and Bonfire night has been and gone, which can only mean one thing... CHRISTMAS! Some may say it may just been a teeny bit early to be thinking about the festivities and all that they entail and others may already have cracked out the tinsel and be galloping around their house to jingle bell rock. Which ever side you're on, it's inevitable that over the next couple of weeks Christmas will be everywhere.

Lots of words are synonymous with Christmas and I think mince pies have to be right up there as mince pies have always been in my family, annually being very nicely done by my nana. Whether I was leaving one for santa when I was little or having one with a cuppa each day of advent, mince pies and Christmas just sort of go hand in hand. But not everybody shares the love of these fruity little treats, bringing me to create this recipe as an alternative to mince pie but still keeping the yummy, buttery pastry.


Caramelised apple is proving to be very popular in my family either in a traditional apple pie with a crumbly crust or an apple betty - which I will admit I had no idea what one was until my mum literally begged that I bake her one.



For this recipe I used freshly picked bramley apples that my mum got from a friend at work, and homemade caramel sauce. But you can use any bramley apples are good and if you aren't keen on making your own caramel you can easily pick a tin of it up.

The Pastry
375g plain flour
265g unsalted butter (at room temp)
130g brown sugar (plus extra for sprinkling)
1 large egg (and another egg beaten for glazing)

The filling
3 large bramley apples
1 packet of walnut halves 
200ml double cream
250g brown sugar
60g unsalted butter (at room temp)

The method

*Preheat the oven to 220 celsius and grease a muffin tin.  

1. First we are going to make the short crust pastry. To begin with measure and sieve the plain flour and add in the butter, rub together until a breadcrumb consistency is made. Add the sugar and egg into the breadcrumbs and with an electrical mixer (or by hand) mix together. Just be careful not to over mix. 

2. Gently sprinkle flour onto a surface, remove the pastry from the bowl and fold on the floured surface until the pastry comes together. You can then wrap the pastry in clingfilm and leave to chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. 

3. Whilst your pastry is chilling you can begin by peeling the apples and cutting them into segments of four. Place them in a deep, medium pan and fill the pan up just enough to cover the apples with normal temp water. Put the pan on a medium heat and add a sprinkle of sugar to the apples and allow to boil for 5-10 minutes. After the apples have boiled drain them as to ensure there is no remaining water. Put to one side for later.

4. Take your pastry out of the fridge and place onto the floured surface again. Roll out the pastry to approx 3mm thick and using a circular cookie cutter cut 16 circles and place them into the greased muffin tray. With the remaining pastry, re-roll it out to the same thickness but this time take your star cookie cutter and cut a further 16 stars out (you can keep these to one side on a floured plate to put on top of your pies later)

5. Now we can make the homemade caramel sauce. Obviously you can buy caramel sauce in a tin if you want, but I much prefer to make my own. Take a medium pan and add your sugar plus 4tbsp of water before putting on a medium heat. Keep stirring until the sugar has dissolved. It is important you keep stirring as the sugar can stick if it is not being watched (yes I learnt the hard way...) 

6. Once the sugar has dissolved turn up the heat and allow the sugar to bubble for roughly 8-10 minutes - just keep stirring! Then take off the hob and add the butter and cream, continually stirring until all is dissolved. 

7. Cover apples in caramel sauce and add the walnuts to the mix. Ensure both apples and walnuts are completely covered in caramel and slowly begin to fill your pastry cups. 

8. With the beaten egg use a pastry brush to brush the sides of the pastry cup before adding your star to the top and pushing down at the edges to ensure it is sealed. You can then finish off the pie by dusting with more egg and sprinkling some brown sugar on top. 

9. Pop them into the oven for 15-20 minutes (until a nice, golden brown) and allow to cool for a further 15 minutes before removing from the muffin tins. 

10. Serve to taste, perhaps with extra cream? And enjoy!

I hope you enjoyed this recipe! I was contacted by Wren Kitchens to come up with an alternative Christmas recipe for their Wren Christmas Campaign whereby each advent day has a blogger share there favourite alternative holiday recipe. I was so excited to come up with this and share it with everyone. What do you think? Is this something you would be tempted to make yourself? Or can you think of any other good, alternative Christmas recipes based on traditions?


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Saturday, 17 September 2016

8 WAYS TO PAMPER YOURSELF


Once in a while we all need to treat ourselves. Whether this be through a bouquet of roses or binge watching Netflix, we all deserve it and require it. One of my favourite ways to treat myself? By having a good old fashioned pamper day! It's amazing how good it can feel to soak in a bubbly bath and apply a fresh coat of nail varnish. I am terrible for sticking to routine and forget to do all the things we are told we should do in our  beauty routine such as moisturising daily. Although when it comes to people dictating what we should and shouldn't be doing, I truly believe it is all down to personal preference. These are just my ideas of ways you give yourself a pamper day at home.
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Monday, 12 September 2016

WEEK THREE: BREAD WEEK | BAKING ALONG WITH THE GBBO


Bread week always proves hard but this series luck didn't seem on a majority of the bakers sides. And with Paul's words of erm... encouragement it's no wonder the bakers didn't feel confident in their bakes. I don't think Paul was getting enough sleep because he was so harsh, but I guess when you're a professional baker you have the authority to be. But I know I would be leaving the tent in tears if he insulted my bakes...

The signature challenge was to bake a chocolate bread which I will be honest I don't think sounds that nice. When I think of bread I always think of savoury and would much prefer a cheesy, garlic bread as opposed to a chocolatey bread.
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Monday, 5 September 2016

WEEK TWO: BISCUIT WEEK | BAKING ALONG WITH THE GBBO



From eating sticky carpet to collapsing gingerbread houses and the most important question tearing the nation apart, do you dunk your biscuits in your cuppa or not? Week two tested the bakers biscuit skills with three challenges that would demonstrate their icing, swirling, whirling and construction of an autobiographical gingerbread scene that for some ended in disaster.
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Tuesday, 30 August 2016

WEEK ONE: CAKE WEEK | BAKING ALONG WITH THE GBBO



It's back! It's finally back. The Great British Bake Off has come back giving me serious baking envy and a lot of us rumbling tummies. I only started watching Bake Off a couple of years ago but as soon as I saw it, I was HOOKED. Wednesday nights are dedicated to the shenanigans that come from that famous tent with delicious bakes and the banter between Mel and Sue.

This year I started what I like to call my baking journey. I have always been a bit useless when it comes to things like baking because, well, I never really gave it the time of day. But as I am getting older I am wanting to be able to become a true Snow White, with a pie cooling on the window ledge and a bird chirping a tune as I tidy the house. Okay fantasyland over - this week on the GBBO we went to cake town. I am going to dedicate a series on my blog rounding up my inner most thoughts on each weeks episode as well as attempting either a signature, technical and (well, very unlikely) a showstopper each week. Think of it as though I am taking part and this is what I would produce to the judges... I am also hoping it will improve my baking!
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Monday, 22 August 2016

CAT CAFE MANCHESTER

Pinch me I am dreaming... I suspect this may be what a cat lovers paradise might look like. When I heard about the Cat Cafe coming to Manchester a couple of months back I knew I had to book tickets. I mean what could be more perfect than sipping a cup of coffee whilst being surrounded by lots of beautiful cats?

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