Goodbye 2015.

 

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I know everyone says this, but I really can’t believe how quick 2015 has gone! So much has happened, some good, some bad. But through it all i’ve learnt a lot. And thats really what life is about isn’t it? I’ve had so much fun with the blog, this is my place. My space to just spread creativity. So I thought for my last post of the year I’d just show some of my favourite blogging moments of 2015.

  • My very first post. When I re-started TLWP as a blog, I honestly thought it would burn out in a couple of months – full of faith! ha- But its just been so addictive. I look back at my first post and I can sense the nerves in my writing, I was SO scared of hitting that publish button. The support I’ve had since is just insane. So thank you for coming here to read.

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  •  Support Small Saturdays. I’ve completely slacked at these, I WILL re-start in 2016, but I’m just so happy I had so many amazing small business that wanted to be involved! I love the interview parts and getting to share some truly inspirational ladies with readers is what its all about.

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  • North west bloggers event. This is when I felt like a blogger, sat in that room full of wonderful people, all in there for the same reason as myself. It was a lovely day and I left with the biggest boost in confidence as well as a bunch of fab ladies I still talk to now. The blogging world is a strange one, its so much easier when you have a group of people that just get it.

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  • The one where I painted my bathroom floor. – This was such a fun/cheap project to do, not only that but It also ended up with me being contacted by Wayfair! My post ended up being part of an bloggers bathroom inspo post! As you can imagine I was so excited to be featured on quite a massive brands website. You can find the Wayfair post here.

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  • World prematurity day – my story. This was a completely last minute post. I had written it, re-written it and gone back to delete it so many times. My blog isn’t really super personal, but I felt this was a story to be shared. I did not at all expect the response I got. Its still the post with the most views this year! It was lovely to know that readers, so used to to recipes, tutorials ect. Weren’t turned off by a little bit of my real life.

mischa

 

And as far as blogging goes in 2016, I’ve planned a couple of posts, but really, my plan is to just work freely, writing up posts as and when inspiration strikes. One of my main goals though is to step up my photography game, I’m lucky enough to have been gifted a half decent camera, I’m better than I was last year, but I’ve still a long way to go and as a blog that really is very visual, its so important for me to try a little harder to get those crisp, bright, clear photographs.

Goodbye 2015, hello 2016.

Happy New year readers!

Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

 

Our Gingerbread house.

I wasn’t really planning on doing a post about this, but then I realised, there are SO many gingerbread house kits on the market, this time of year. It may actually be helpful if you want to do one but aren’t sure on where to buy from.

I read an article a few weeks ago, one of the national newspapers I think. Giving the run down on gingerbread house kits, where to buy, where not to buy. Anyway, the Lidl one received the best ratings and priced at only £4.49 it would hardly break the bank to have a go.

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As I said earlier I wasn’t actually planning on doing this post, so I have no photographs at all of the process, but its all pretty simple. In the box you’ll have 8 gingerbread pieces, 4 packets of sweets for decorating and 3 christmas icing figures (santa, a snowman and a christmas tree).

The only disappointment would be that you don’t get anything to make icing with, nothing at all (It does state it on the box, I just didn’t read it). Luckily, avid baker that I am I always have packets of icing sugar in. On the inside of the box is steps to follow, including the measurements needed to make up the perfect icing. 300g of icing sugar mixed with one egg white (All in all I made up two lots of this icing) This really does make the best icing to build up your house with. Other things to think about buying extra is sweets. I bought a bag of giant white buttons for the roof, mini marshmallows for the smoking chimney and candy canes… just because… its a gingerbread house.

The actual building of the house is simple. Follow the steps on the inside of the box, securing the gingerbread with cocktail sticks. The icing only takes about ten minutes to dry, giving you time to set up the sweets.

Izzy was supposed to be a part of the gingerbread house decorating,  I told her she couldn’t eat all the sweets, cue tantrum, followed by her falling asleep. So Mischa and I did it all on our own. Its certainly fiddly, trying to get all those little sweets stuck down, and I think if I did it again, i’d ice the decorations on the front of the house, prior to sticking it all together, its not the easiest position to draw. But overall its a lovely kit, simple instructions an something fab to do with the kids during the christmas period. Now I know just how easy it is, I’m planning on making something much more elaborate next year.

 

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Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

Rocky road Christmas pudding.

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On monday I put up my rather elaborate Christmas day food plan. On the dessert table menu was a rocky road christmas pudding. I make this ever year, out of the 6-8 people (not including the children) only two of those like actual christmas pudding. For the rest of us there’s this. Its a great alternative, really easy to make and you can prepare it well in advanced, so ideal if like me your Christmas day meal plan is pretty jam packed with to do’s.

So, heres what you’ll need:

  • large pudding bowl
  • 400g milk chocolate
  • Large share bag of Maltesers
  • 70g mini marshmallows
  • 8 plain digestive biscuits
  • 50g white chocolate
  • * Optional* bristle of holly to garnish, I’ve made some up with icing, seen as this particular one is going to Izzy’s nursery for their Christmas party.

The great thing about this is that you can literally throw anything in, nuts, dried fruit ect. I’ve kept this one simple, again because this is going to a nursery class & i’m not sure if any of the kids have nut allergies.

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And here’s what you’ll need to do:

First, melt your chocolate in a large bowl, usually I melt my chocolate in the microwave, but because I need a large bowl for this I melt it on the hob, placing the bowl over a pan of boiling water.

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Once your chocolate is melted, pour in your maltasers, marshmallows and broken digestives. giving it a good thorough mix.

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Next line your pudding bowl with cling film and pour your rocky road mix into the pudding bowl.

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You need your mix to be pressed right in, you can do this using the back of a spoon. Pull the left over cling film over the top of your rocky road pudding and place in the fridge to set (this needs to be chilled overnight, so it really does need doing the night before.)

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About twenty minutes before you plan on serving your rocky road pudding, pop it out of the pudding bowl and peel off the cling film.

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Melt down your white chocolate and using a spoon pour over the top of your pudding, pop it back in the fridge for ten minutes.

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Once your white chocolate has chilled a little bit, finish with a festive spring of holly and serve.

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The perfect Christmas pudding for those that don’t like traditional Christmas puddings.

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Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

Hosting Christmas day.

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When we lived out of the country, our Christmas’s were quiet, too quite. I yearned for a full house, tables of food, family all around. I’m a hostess, any major holiday and I’m on it, I live for these things. So this christmas, just like the last two, we’re hosting christmas dinner at our house. Its a bit smaller this year only having 6 adults and two children. But like always I will go completely over the top. Its not christmas without enough food to feed a small army is it?!

So every year, around about two weeks before Christmas I get out my notepad and jot down the menu for the day, then I write down my christmas food shopping list, aswell as timing for food to be prepared and cooked on the day. It makes it so much easier when I know what I need to be doing and when, it also means I can spend as much time enjoying the festivities with everyone else.

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I thought I’d share my menu and prep list so if your hosting christmas this year, maybe for the first time and have no idea how you’ll organise everything, it might make it just that little bit easier.

So first up, here’s my menu.

 

Christmas dinner:

Roast turkey

Roast potatoes

yorkshire puddings,

sausage meat stuffing

roasted carrots & parsnips

steamed broccoli

brussel sprouts

Turkey gravy

 

Dessert table:

Millionaires shortcake

Rocky road christmas pudding

real christmas pudding with clotted cream

boston cream cupcakes.

I’m a dessert lover (just incase you didn’t get that from the list above) and every year I like to fill the table with an array of desserts once dinner has been cleared up. I always end up with loads left over, but then i’ll do my rounds to the neighbours, passing over left over treats. Also I know there are NO fruit based desserts on this menu, again I’ve learnt from years passed, they barely get touched, we’re a family of chocolate lovers.

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Now i’ve decided on my menu, its time to plan and write down my list of timings for both the prep and the cooking. I’ve learnt  that if I dont plan correctly or over pack my menu I will be in the kitchen for days before (Christmas 2013 I was in the kitchen for 2 days prior and pretty much all of christmas day)

So starting with the earliest. Things that can be prepared well in advanced.

The morning of Christmas eve:

  • Make the Rocky road christmas pudding and leave in the fridge to set (I’ll have a recipe for this up on the blog on Weds)
  • Make the shortbread & caramel part of the millionaires shortbread. (leave on the side, covered)
  • Make the cupcakes & creme pattiseier for the boston cream cupcakes (leave the cupcakes to cool, cover the crem pat & chill in the fridge)

I always make sure i’m completely free from at least 4-7pm on Christmas eve, this is our family time, Once the kids are tucked up in bed I’ll finish food prep before setting up the living room for christmas day morning.

Christmas eve evening:

  • Add the chocolate topping to the millionaires shortbread. (cover and set aside)
  • Peel the potatoes (pop them in a water filled bowl or tupperware dish and leave in the fridge until needed)
  • prepare the sausage meat stuffing. (Set in a loaf tin, cover with foil and pop in the fridge)
  • Prepare the turkey. (again cover with foil and put it into the fridge)

Christmas Day:

9am – Put the turkey in the oven.

12pm – Prep the carrots and parsnips (place in a baking tray & set aside), prep the broccoli and put in a pan, same with the brussel sprouts.

1pm – Make up the yorkshire pudding batter (leave in the fridge until needed)

1:15 – combine the cupcakes  & creme pat (set aside for choclate topping later)

1:30 – part boil the potatoes.

1:50 – put the potatoes in the oven to roast.

2pm – Put the carrots & parnips in to roast

2:15 – Put the stuffing in the oven.

2:20 – Put the oiled yorkshire pudding tray in the oven.

2:30 – Pop the yorkshire puddings mixture in the tray and back in the oven.

2:35 – Brussel sprouts on to boil

2:45 – Broccoli on, Take out the turkey ( set on the serving platter, cover with foil)

2:50 – Gravy!

3pm – DINNER TIME! ( The Turkey, stuffing, gravy & yorkshire puddings are set on the table, everything else is pre plated up, my table isnt big enough for a serve yourself style dinner)

4pm- After dinner is finished and the table cleared, prepare the dessert table. Cover the rocky road christmas pudding with melted white chocoate & top the boston cream cupcakes with melted milk chocolate. Invite everyone in for the traditional lighting of the normal christmas pudding before helping themselves to everything else.

4:30pm – Grab three bottles of wine & lock myself in the bathroom for the rest of the evening. Ha. Just kidding, but with everyone fed, I’ll sit, I’ll drink, I’ll congratulate myself on another successfull Christmas dinner and enjoy the festivities with everyone else.

*Quick note, I have a double oven, this makes it so much easier to have everything in. If you’ve got a single oven, you’ll have to do some juggling.*

Hosting Christmas dinner is not for the faint hearted. Of course you can cut out a ton of those steps by buying pre-made desserts & frozen potatoes, yorkshire puddings ect. But Its christmas, its only one day of the year and if your like me this beautiful day of food, family and festivities only deserves the best.

So deep breaths, get your lists made up and remember YOU CAN DO THIS!

Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

The worlds BEST hot chocolate.

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I’m going to confess something rather shocking… I dont like Hot chocolate. *Gasp* I just dont, I dont like chocolate ice cream, chocolate cake or chocolate milkshake either, give me an actual bar of chocolate though and i’m happy as larry. Wierd eh. You’re probably wondering why as someone that doesnt like hot chocolate am I posting a recipe for it? Well, its a regular demand in my household on any cold winters night and I have it on very good authority that this hot chocolate is the absolute best my three taste testers have ever had. This isn’t an instant, just add water hot chocolate. It does take a little effort, but for a special occasion, say Christmas eve.. this is the one to make!

So here’s what you’ll need:

– 30g butter
– 20g cornflour
– 450ml  whole fat milk, plus a little extra (Blue top)
– 50g sugar
– 90g milk chocolate chips
– 90g  dark chocolate chips
– Whipped cream *Optional*
– Mini marshmallows *Optional*
These quantities make 2-4 servings, depending on mug size. Feel free to double up, its worse to run out than it is to have too much & any left overs can be kept in the fridge for a few days and reheated (once only).

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And here’s what you’ll need to do:

First you need to melt the butter in a saucepan, once melted whisk in the cornflour to make a clumpy paste – I know that sounds revolting, but bare with me!

Next, pop your sugar in with your milk, give it a little stir before very slowly pouring a little into your saucepan at a time.  This is really important, little in & stir, little more then stir. Continue until you’ve used all your milk/sugar & your milky mixture is lump free.

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When the mixture starts to thicken, take your pan off the hob and add all of your chocolate chips. Stir continuously until all of the chocolate chips have melted.

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This bit is completely optional, Add about 50ml of milk & stir, before pouring into your mug of choice. I add the last bit of milk at the end because it cools the rather hot chocolate mixture a little bit, children aren’t really programmed to wait, especially not for melted chocolate in a mug. The quicker its cooled to drinking tempeture the better.

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Lastly (and this is completely optional) top with cream, marshmallows, any left over chocolate chips and serve!

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Enjoy.

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Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

Double Chocolate millionaires shortbread.

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Today i’m back with another mouthwateringly good recipe. Double chocolate millionaires shortbread. A layer of buttery shortbread, topped with fudgey caramel, finished off with a smooth double chocolate layer. Perfection in one slice. It is really simple to make, certainly not quick though, but the majority of time in-between starting and getting to eat it is spent waiting, so there isn’t too much to do. Its perfect to make the day before you want to serve it. I’ll be adding this recipe to my Christmas day family feast dessert table… it really is that good! So lets get started.

Heres what you’ll need,

For the Shortbread:

  • 200g plain flour
  • 180g butter
  • 75g sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract/paste

For the caramel.

  • 100g butter or margarine
  • 100g light muscavado sugar
  • 2  cans condensed milk

For the chocolate topping:

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 180g bar of milk chocolate.

 

And here’s what you’ll need to do.

First we need to make the shortbread, so preheat the oven to 180 C / Gas mark 4 and line your baking tray with baking paper.

Next cream the butter and sugar together and add the vanilla. Beat until smooth. Add flour and salt and press onto the bottom of a greased tin.

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Bake 20-25 minutes until shortbread is pale golden. Set aside and allow to cool.

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Now we need to make the caramel. Pour the butter, sugar and condensed milk into a pan and heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Reduce the heat and simmer very gently, stirring continuously until you’re mixture becomes thick and fudge like. This will take about 15 minutes, it does take a while, your arm will ache. But it is so worth the effort. I promise.

Pour the caramel over the shortbread and leave. You don’t need everything to be completely cool, you just need the top layer of caramel to set, this will take about half an hour.

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Now onto the chocolate. Melt the milk chocolate, I nuke it in the microwave, first for 30 seconds then in ten second intervals stirring in between each go. Remember, the heat from the melted chocolate will melt the solid bits, so don’t overheat or you’ll just burn it.

Once the milk chocolate is set, set it aside for a moment and melt down your white chocolate in a separate bowl.

Pour your milk chocolate/butter mixture over your caramel smoothing it so it covers the entire surface.

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Using a spoon, scoop up some of your white chocolate and drizzle in swirls around your tin.

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Now using a knife, or kebab skewer swirl across, making a lovely little pattern. I pretty much zoned out whilst doing this, I over swirled almost mixing the two chocolates completely, so try to avoid that.

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Now comes the hard part. Waiting. You’ll see a glaze set over the top of the chocolate, the tin will feel cool. This is how you know it’s ready to tuck in to. You can put it in the fridge if you like, but the caramel will go really hard, making it difficult to slice (and eat), so remember to take back out 4-6 hours before serving, so it can warm up a little.

Once cooled, tip out the shortbread, slice and tuck in.

 

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Perfection.

Robyn,

The little woman pretends .

My Christmas wish list.

It is officially ONE MONTH until christmas! One whole month until the day of food, family and general merriness.

This  means I can finally get excited doesn’t it?! Well I am doing anyway.

As of now I can hum christmas songs to my hearts content, add to our decorations with a couple of lovely trinkets, start planning the Christmas day feast I will be feeding my family and most importantly send Sam the link to this post daily, just to make sure he doesn’t forget what I would like for christmas.

I’m obviously not expecting them all… I’m more of a giver when it comes to christmas. But at least now he has something to reference to when buying for me (Yes Mr. S, I am talking about the fiasco of 2010 when you bought me a shake weight, there’ll be NONE of that this year.)

 

wishlist

  1. Harry Potter book box set (Paperback) – £29.99 : The book people. 
  2. Miss dior cherie perfume £44.55 : Debenhams. 
  3. Nike blazers- £37.99 : Amazon. 
  4. Floral cushions. £19.99 each : Zara home. 
  5. Extra tough wine glasses (Set of four) £24 : Selfridges.
  6. Heringbone throw £19.99 : Zara home.
  7. Lace up flats – £29.99 : Zara. 
  8.  Loveable, livable, home – Young house Love. – £15.90 : Amazon. 
  9.  Jumpsuit – £50 : Asos. 

Let the gift buying commence!

Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

Homemade cold remedy.

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‘Tis the season… for cold and flu. Especially if you’ve got little ones at school or nursery. Germs breed amongst children, and then they multiply in your home before infecting everyone else, leaving you to look after everyone whilst still suffering – Ahh don’t you just love winter. Well… suffer no more, with this all natural, tasty cold remedy.

This is NOT a miracle cure, it will in no way eradicate all germs, but it will make you feel a little better. And when you’ve got four thousand things to do, all you can hope for, is to feel a little better.

I can vouch for this completely, Its basically a homemade Lemsip type drink, minus all the random ingredients they put in.  When you’re throat is raw, the warmth will sooth the discomfort for a while, when you’re brain feels as though a little man with a pick axe has taken to mining against your skull, the natural healing properties of ginger, lemon and honey will help fight the nasties that are trying to take over your immune system.

 

So here’s what you need. 

  • 1″ chunk of fresh ginger.
  • 1 thick slice of lemon.
  • 2 teaspoons of honey.
  • enough hot water to fill your mug
  • a tea strainer if you’ve got one. cheese cloth if you haven’t or you can even make a very quick & easy tinfoil tea strainer, 30 second tutorial can be found Here.

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And heres what you need to do. 

First boil your kettle, prepare you teacup and tea strainer.

Next, grate your ginger and add to your tea strainer/cheesecloth/tinfoil DIY strainer.

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Pop your ginger filled strainer in your tea cup, along with your honey & pour your boiling water over.

 

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Slice of a nice chunky piece of lemon and pop it into your teacup.

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Now, simply leave your tea to brew for a good 3-5 minutes, the longer you leave it the more ginger will infuse, giving more of its natural goodness to your drink.

Finally, remove your infuser, give a good stir and sip.

The warmth will immediately sooth you. The honey coats your throat, the lemon and ginger working together to help ease aches. And all completely natural. Grab a book, a warm blanket, put your feet up and get well soon!

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Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

 

Cheesy pull-apart bread.

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I’ve seen these floating about looking all cheesy and delicious, so I finally decided to have a go at making some pull apart bread, making my own little tweaks. This stuff, is the absolute bomb – as long as you’re a cheese lover that is! Which I most definitely am.

So, i’m going to stop rambling and just get straight on with showing you how to make a mouth watering, melted cheese pull apart bloomer.

Here’s what you’ll need. 

  • 1 uncut loaf, a bloomer or something similar.
  • 1 Mozzerella ball.
  • 250g cheddar cheese, at least. Add more if you want more.
  • 50g butter
  • 2 garlic bulbs, peeled.

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And here’s what you need to do.

First preheat your oven to 180.

Now slice diagonally across your bloomer, taking care not to slice right through the bread. Repeat again, cutting diagonally in the other direction. It’ll be a little harder to slice this way, so be gentle.

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Next, popping your bread to the side, place your butter and garlic bulbs in a saucepan, placing it on a low heat until the butter has melted and the garlic bulbs start to turn golden, this will give the best garlic flavouring.

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Time to prep your cheese, you can either grate, slice or just roughly chop. I’ve chopped the mozzarella and grated the cheddar.

Finally we can put it all together. First, spoon out some of the butter, drizzling it into the gaps.

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Now, stuff a mixture of your two cheeses into the gaps, making sure all of the spaces have been filled. Don’t be shy with the cheese here, the more the merrier.

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Next, wrap your loaf up in tinfoil and place it into the oven, middle shelf for about 10-15 minutes.

Once your time is up, take the bloomer out, unwrap, revel in those delicious aromas and try not to scoff it all before you’ve shown off your amazing bake.

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The double cheese pull apart bread can be served on its own (Friday night treat with a glass or three of wine) or if you really have to share, paired with a rich and tangy tomato soup like I have.

Delicious.

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Robyn,

The little woman pretends.

Homemade butter.

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I’m all about the basics, whether its sharing my little tweaks to make quality homemade british classics, or simplifying it all with a basic recipe. Today I’m going way back to the very basic of know hows, homemade butter. Butter is used in all baking and most dishes, its been used for thousands of years. Fast forward to 2015 and we’re more used to using processed margarine’s, ‘spreads’ or shop bought instead of the good old homemade classic. Obviously I’m not going to start spouting about how everyone must always make their own, we’ve all got lives to live. But every now and again, its kind of therapeutic to just go back to basics, make something so simple from scratch and revel in how fabulously domesticated we are.

 So. Today I’m sharing a super easy tutorial on how to make it.

Here’s what you’ll need.

– 900ml double cream

Thats it!!!

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This recipe makes roughly around 200g butter, my scales are broken *Gasp* so I had to guestimate. Its definitely not less, and if its more, you have more butter than you bargained for, its not really such a bad thing is it? All in all it cost £2.01 (Aldi do 300ml pots of double cream for 67p each)

Here’s what we’ll do.

First you need to decide how you want to mix your cream. There are a few ways to do this, you can use an electric whisk, a blender or even go super old fashioned and use a jar (I really would not advise doing this with a hand whisk!!! it takes a while, your arm WILL feel like its going to fall off).

So once you’ve decided (I used an electric whisk) whizz your cream until the curds and butter milk separates. Usually 5/10 minutes. If using a jar, simply pour your cream in, fasten the lid tightly & shake like your life depends on it.

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Next pull your butter out of the mixing bowl, leaving your buttermilk. Fill up another bowl with icy cold water (even better if you put in some actual ice cubes) Put your butter into the icy cold water and squish the curds together underwater to make a rough ball of butter. Repeat this process with fresh water until the water stays clear. You do this to draw out as much of the remaining butter milk as possible, the less buttermilk, the longer your butter will stay fresh.

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You can now add any flavourings, salt, garlic, herbs ect. Or you can leave it plain (I kept mine plain, I want to use some for cakes).

Next spoon your butter into a bowl or you can place it on a piece of greaseproof paper and roll it up.

 

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Now comes the good part, whether its a homemade cake or simple hot buttery toast. Everything you use your butter for will automatically be better than if using shop bought, simply because you made it yourself. I can tell you now, there isn’t anything better than a mug of tea and toast with homemade butter on a cold rainy day.

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Your butter will keep in the fridge for around a week, 2-3 if you manage to really squeeze all of that buttermilk out.

Enjoy!

Robyn,

The little woman pretends.