Monday, 31 December 2012

favourites of 2012

{favourite view: Correncon, Grenoble}
{favourite trip to see a precious friend & her new baby: Goiania, Brazil}
{favourite weekend away with friends: Broadstairs, Kent}
{favourite trip to the beach: Woolacoombe, Devon}
{favourite holiday: American roadtrip}
{favourite cupcake: lemon sponge with lemon and raspberry frosting}
{favourite sewing project}
{favourite Winter coffee indulgence}
{favourite baby photo shoot}

I love looking back over my photos from the past year, remembering wonderful occasions that had slipped to the back of my memory, and being constantly amazed at how quickly time passes. I looked at many photos from 2012 and wondered, 'has it really been nearly a year since that happened?!' To try and sum up the year in a few sentences does not feel achieveable, so I will let the photos speak for themselves, with just a few of my favourite memories from 2012.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

shortbread snowflakes

A couple of weeks ago, when Christmas baking was in full swing, I made plans to sell some baked goods at a Christmas craft fair that my Church was organising. I enlisted the help of Fiona, the same wonderful lady who helped me bake my wedding cake, and together we baked batch upon batch of gingerbread, shortbread, brownies, cupcakes and more. Some of our treats were bought and devoured, and many more were not. What do you do when you have baked goods packaged up and covering every surface of your kitchen? Give them away! John and I had a lot of fun distributing cakes here, there and everywhere (while enjoying a few for ourselves), and I learnt the valuable lesson that at a Christmas craft fair, people are looking for gifts  to give, not cupcakes to consume as they shop!

The recipe I used to make these shortbread snowflakes is essentially a very luxurious shortbread.  The addition of double cream gives the dough an incredibly soft texture that I would happily work with all day long.
225g unsalted butter, room temperature
125g icing (confectioners) sugar
65ml double (heavy) cream
500g plain (all purpose) flour

1 tsp vanilla extract or a vanilla pod if you have one

1) In a large mixing bowl, beat together the icing sugar, double cream, butter and vanilla extract until combined.
2) Gradually add the flour until it is mixed in completely. The dough will be quite stiff by this point.
3) Wrap the dough in cling film and flatten / roll with rolling pin until it's about 1/2 an inch thick.
4) Chill in the fridge for about an hour, or leave for up to 2 days if making in advance.
5) Pre-heat the oven to 180C / Gas mark 4/ 350F and grease a few baking trays.
6) Remove dough from fridge, unwrap it and place on a floured surface. Roll out to about 1/8 inch thickness.
7) Cut with your choice of cookie cutter and place onto prepared baking tray.
8) Bake in pre-heated oven for 8-10 minutes, or until just turning golden at the edges.
9) Place baking tray onto cooling rack, and allow to cool for a few minutes before removing from the tray, to give time to harden.

Notes: I found that the thinner the dough, the more the snowflakes kept their shape, and didn't swell while baking. However, you have to be far more watchful over the baking time when the dough is thin, as they are far more prone to burning.

Friday, 21 December 2012

cranberry & white chocolate cookies

These cookies are synonymous with Christmas baking for me. I love the way the bright red cranberries look like tiny jewels dotted all over the cookies. This recipe makes an enormous batch, and I love that - they go a long way. There's always enough to share with your family, friends, and colleagues.
I baked a triple batch of these chewy cookies for a Christmas Craft Fair the other weekend. It turns out, a triple batch was way too much! The recipe uses condensed milk, which gives a wonderful flavour and I am sure it's the secret ingredient for the chewy, soft texture that I love in a cookie. Plus, they are brilliantly quick to make, which is always a bonus when a recipe is delicious and fast.
ingredients (yields approx. 30)
225g caster sugar
170g condensed milk
150g white chocolate chips or chunks
225g unsalted butter at room temperature
350g self raising flour
100g cranberries (or a few handfuls until you're happy with the distribution!)

1) Preheat oven to 180C / gas mark 4
2) Cream the butter, sugar and condensed milk together until well combined
3) Add the flour (no need to sieve) and stir to combine
4) Add chocolate chips and cranberries
5) Scoop large teaspoonfuls of dough onto a greased baking sheet, well spread out
6) Bake for 10 mins, or until just turning golden around the edges.
7) Remove from oven and leave to cool for a couple of minutes on the baking tray before transferring to a wire cooling rack.
7) Eat!

Monday, 17 December 2012

...weep with those who weep...(Romans 12)

As I walked through the corridors of my school this morning, the sunshine filling the place with light, I could not begin to imagine what the children and teachers at Sandy Hook school went through on Friday as Adam Lanza made his way through the school, gun in hand, taking the lives of so many people.

At church yesterday, our pastor reflected on what has happened in Connecticut, and reminded us that when Jesus was born, King Herod issued a decree for all new born baby boys to be killed, because he feared the Son of God taking over his kingship. We often omit this part in telling the Christmas story, but I am remembering with much sobriety and humility, that Jesus was not only born in a lowly manger, he was born into a world in desperate need of help; a world in great need of Jesus to rescue us.

We live in a broken, messy world, which is also full of beauty, but if we refuse to acknowledge the brokenness, we are really missing the point. I am reminded of the prayer that Jesus told his disciples when they asked Him how to pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be your name,
Your kingdom come, 
your will be done,
on Earth as it is in Heaven....

O Lord, would your will be done in all of the brokenness, on Earth as it is in Heaven. Earth is only a temporary home, but the years that we have living on Earth can be of great significance.

There are many people who have spoken about the Connecticut tragedy in light of the gospel in a far more powerful and truth-filled way than I have - if you'd like to read any - I would recommend following the links to the writers that David Cooke refers to.

Monday, 10 December 2012

lemon biscuits with cream cheese and raspberry dip (icing)

Last week I bought a bagful of beautiful, bright lemons. I know they are not particularly seasonal, but I couldn't resist them. So, home they came. After making a lemon drizzle cake, I still had plenty of lemons left and so baked a batch of lemon biscuits, based on this recipe.

ingredients for the biscuits
225g unsalted butter at room temperature
250g icing sugar (confectioners)
65ml double cream
zest of 2 lemons
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
500g plain (all purpose) flour

ingredients for the icing
225g cream cheese (my personal preference is always full fat Philadelphia)
50g unsalted butter
500g icing sugar
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 1 lemon
small handful of raspberries (approx. 10)

1) Beat together the butter, icing sugar, double cream, zest, lemon juice and vanilla extract until combined.
2) Add the flour gradually, mixing until combined. The dough will become quite stifft. Flatten the dough and wrap in cling film. Chill for an hour, or overnight.
3) When you are ready to bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 180C / Gas mark 4.
4) Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thick, then cut with desired cookie cutter shape. (I used a 1.5inch cutter.)
5) Place biscuits on greased baking sheets and bake for 10 - 13 mins (until just slightly golden around the edges).
6) To make the filling, place the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and beat on medium-high speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the cream cheese and beat until creamy, about 2 minutes more. Add sugar and lemon zest, grapefruit zest, orange juice, and salt, and beat for additional 3 to 4 minutes.
NB: The icing was a little too runny to be piped, so perhaps increase the amount of sugar until it reaches desired thickness, or just serve icing as a dip!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Christmas Crafting

Hello, one and all! It's been much quieter on this little blog than I ever intended - and for those of you who pop by each day to check for updates - thank you & sorry that there has been nothing new for a while.

One of the blogs that I love to read is written by Jessi Connolly over at Naptime Diaries. Jessi creates beautiful prints with Scripture from the Bible, and has designed the perfect advent calendar for Christmas. I purchased the downloadable version to save on international shipping, and I love it.
Before I had even printed the calendar, I knew I wanted to add a little something to the pegs to make them a bit more exciting. After seeing fabric covered pegs on Lucy's blog, I knew this was the perfect plan. So I sifted through my Christmas fabric stash, and came up with these lovely fabrics, left over from making stockings last year.

The other brilliant thing about this Advent Calendar is that they have been designed to correspond with some of the Advent Bible Studies written by the #SheReadsTruth ladies. I highly recommend these daily Bible Studies to help quiet your heart from the commercialism of Christmas, and get back to the heart of it all. Jesus.