In Need of Some Winter Cheer ?

P7340238Before we go any further today, I made you a cup of coffee. I am not sure how you like yours, so I just made two the same. I have to admit, no matter how hard I try and no matter how many years I have lived in France I simply cannot give up my milky  cappuccino style coffee. I don’t usually go the whole way and sprinkle cocoa powder on the top, but I thought as you were joining me we would push the boat out and do it properly! Read more

The Only Way is Up

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Here in the Charente Maritime houses and buildings have donned their summer clothing, pretty pastels and vibrant colours abound. Everywhere I go there are climbers, reaching upwards, the bigger the better;  these are the social climbers of the plant world, they twist and turn around anything they can cling to for support, or anything that will enhance their status! Read more

CUPCAKES AND KISSES

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Cupcakes and kisses, flowers and chocolates, you would be forgiven for thinking I am a hopeless romantic, that February 14th is one of my favourite days of the year – alas no, it’s not me but our two youngest daughters aged 8 and 10 who are obsessed with Valentine’s Day!

Browsing in shops in La Rochelle this week there was very little evidence of Valentine’s Day.  Just a glimpse here and there of a red heart, a little reminder delivered with understated elegance.

The chocolatier offered exquisitely presented chocolates

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sometimes with a hint of passion

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The Florist, the Parfumerie – so simple, so chic, so French.

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Our 14 year old is currently making stunning little figurines with oven-bake modeling clay and I borrowed some of the red and sat and made kisses and hearts, lots of them, it was strangely therapeutic!  I put them in a little box which I covered and decorated and the next day they went in the mail to our eldest daughter at University in the UK.  I told her a little package was on it’s way and she must not open it until Saturday, “but why not until Saturday Mama? I don’t understand” she said.  We message and send a long line of kisses everyday but I just wanted her to feel extra special, to have a few extra kisses.

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On the subject of kisses, how it tugs at the heart-strings when our little ones don’t really want to go to school, don’t want to leave us for a few hours, what do you do?  Sometimes I blow them a couple of extra kisses, they catch them, it’s a routine we know well. I tell them to pop them in their pockets for later, so that when they feel a little low, a little insecure, they have those extra kisses warming their pockets – they can take them out and use them when they need to.

Sometimes, I write a little message in the palm of their hands, whilst they are struggling with something at school sitting at their desks they can take a little look, knowing I am thinking of them, knowing they are not alone – feeling loved always.

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Do we ever need an excuse to eat cake?  Probably not but this was an excuse to be a little more creative than usual.  This is my standard cake recipe, I use it regularly whenever I make cupcakes or cakes.  I always use spelt flour, we love the slightly nutty flavor it gives, but this recipe works just as well with plain or wholewheat flour.  The cakes are a very light and fluffy sponge, not heavy at all as is sometimes the case with wholewheat flours.  I don’t normally spend hours piping icing onto my cupcakes, they don’t usually last long enough to warrant such effort and to be honest they taste so much nicer without the extra sugar!  However, these are special occasion cupcakes, I colored the butter icing with a little juice from some defrosted frozen raspberries and it produced a fabulous color without any artificial chemicals and gave the icing just the smallest hint of raspberry.

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6ozs/170g butter, softened

4ozs/125g sugar

6ozs/170g wholewheat spelt flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

4 eggs

3 tablespoons cocoa powder and 3 tablespoons water

(if using Spelt flour or Wholewheat flour I add  1 tablespoon milk)

Ok, so this is where I break all the baking rules.  I put all the ingredients together in the mixer and beat on the lowest setting until everything is combined.  Then I beat at top speed for about 30 seconds until the color changes and is lighter.  You will just have to trust me on this one, I have been using this recipe, which is my own for many years and it always works, the cakes are mouth wateringly light.  Place in cupcake holders and bake at 180C/350F for 12 – 15 minutes.

For a classic Buttercream Icing

5ozs/140g butter, softened

10ozs/280g Icing sugar

1- 2 tablespoons warm water

a few drops of vanilla essence

For the Pink Icing, I replaced the vanilla essence with the juice and pulp of a handful of frozen raspberries.  I let them get really soft and then pushed them through a sieve straight into the icing mixture.

I then used a standard icing nozzle for the vanilla icing and a petal tip nozzle for the roses.

A little decadent but worth every second to see the smile on my children’s faces

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