Valentine's Cookies

Wednesday, 12 February 2014


At the moment money is tighter than Dermot O'Leary's pants! As part of our mega budgeting initiative, hubby and I have decided not to buy anything for each other for Valentine's day this year. Until now, we've always bought at least a card for each other and most years he's bought me flowers. Which is nice but after being together for nearly 10 years, missing one year won't matter one little bit.

However, hubby is such a biscuit addict that I thought I'd make some Valentine's cookies for him. Plus the kids would love them too. So I took my favourite  sweet biscuit recipe, a small heart shaped cutter and some red fondant icing and hey presto! I doubt very much if there'll be any left by Valentine's day!


Valentine's Cookies

Makes 28
Preparation time 15 minutes plus 1 hour chilling time
Cooking time 10 - 15 minutes


90g unsalted butter, softened
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
½ tsp vanilla extract
200g plain flour plus more for rolling
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
Ready to roll red icing

Use an electric mixer to beat the butter and caster sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla extract then beat again until fully combined. Add the flour, baking powder and salt to the bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together – don’t be worried if the dough still seems quite wet at this stage, it will really firm up in the fridge. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and pop in the fridge for about 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 180°C {350°F} Gas mark 4. Line a large baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Lightly dust your work surface and your rolling pin with flour. Roll out the dough until it's 5mm thick. Cut out shapes with a heart shaped cookie cutter, then place them on your lined tray. You can place them about 1cm apart as they don't spread much when baking. Pop in the oven for 10-15 minutes until they turn a golden biscuit colour. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. 

When they’re all fully cooled, decorate with the icing. Roll out the icing to a thickness of about 3mm. Cut out the shapes with the same heart shaped cutter as you used before. Stick the icing to the biscuits using a little water.

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Viennese Fingers

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

 viennese fingers

This week has been tough. My friend who was pregnant with twins went into early labour and one of the babies, a boy, was born at 23 weeks and 5 days weighing just 690g {1.5lbs}. Shocked is an understatement. I have not stopped thinking about her all week. My regular readers will know how much I believe in the power of positive thinking but even I have struggled to have faith at times this week.

My friend has been keeping everyone updated on facebook and I was so happy to have a lovely phone call from her yesterday. Her little boy is almost a week old now and is doing amazingly well. He's a tough cookie and a little fighter. He was doing so well the doctors were going to take him off the ventillator today as he was breathing so well.

And the incredible part is that twin two, a girl, is still cooking away insider her mum! How amazing is that?! Apparently she's happy where she is and obviously the doctors want to keep her in there for as long as possible. So my friend's twins {all being well} will be one in a million and have different birthdays!

Before we move onto the recipe can I just ask a quick favour? Please spare a prayer or thought for my friend and her babies. Every tiny little positive thought makes a difference.

viennese fingers

Anyway back to the baking. These Viennese Fingers were the product of one of my impromptu baking sessions. You know the ones where you flick through a few recipe books and just see something and think 'hmmm I'll have a go at those'!

They are easy peasy. Don't worry if you're not an expert at piping. I'm quite good but mine still turned out a bit wobbly and lots of different shapes... but who cares when they taste so wonderful! They simply melt in the mouth and are utterly delicious.

viennese fingers

Viennese Fingers

Makes 20 fingers
Preparation time 20 minutes
Baking time 15 minutes

100g unsalted butter, softened
25g icing sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
100g plain flour
1 tsp cornflour
1/4 tsp baking powder
100g milk chocolate







  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1tsp cornflour
  • 1/4tsp baking powder
  • 100g milk chocolate, chopped

  • Read more at http://www.womanandhome.com/recipes/534065/viennese-fingers#ayPgIXZ34DJsZ1iE.99






  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1tsp cornflour
  • 1/4tsp baking powder
  • 100g milk chocolate, chopped

  • Read more at http://www.womanandhome.com/recipes/534065/viennese-fingers#ayPgIXZ34DJsZ1iE.99






  • 100g unsalted butter, softened
  • 25g icing sugar
  • 1tsp vanilla extract
  • 100g plain flour
  • 1tsp cornflour
  • 1/4tsp baking powder
  • 100g milk chocolate, chopped

  • Read more at http://www.womanandhome.com/recipes/534065/viennese-fingers#ayPgIXZ34DJsZ1iE.99
    Preheat the oven to 170C {325F} gas mark 3. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. 

    Place the butter, sugar and vanilla extract in a large bowl and beat with a hand held electric mixer {or freestanding mixer if you have one} until pale and light. Sift in the flour, cornflour and baking powder and mix until everything is thoroughly combined and the mixture is smooth.

    Spoon the mixture into a piping bag fitted with a medium star nozzle. Pipe fingers 10cm in length onto the baking tray. Pop into the oven for 10-15 minutes until they trurn a pale golden colour.

    Take out of the oven and leave to cool on the baking tray for 5 minutes to firm up, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Break up the chocolate, put in a heatproof bowl and melt in the microwave on half power in 30 second bursts. Dip each end of the fingers into the chocolate and put back onto the wire rack to set. The dipping bit is quite tricky as the fingers break very easily. I found that holding the fingers as low down near to the chocolate stopped them from breaking.

    Enjoy!

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    My Darlings and Me is Two!

    Sunday, 9 February 2014

    Source
    On 4th February 2012 I published my very first blog post. Two years and almost 400 posts later I'm still here and still loving it. I've had my ups and downs. There have been weeks where I had no motivation to blog. But it always comes back. I can't imagine life without my blog... where would I share my recipes and life?!
     
    So thank you to all who have read, commented on and followed My Darlings and Me. I am so grateful and flattered that you decided to follow my little blog. It's lovely to know someone is reading, whether you stumbled across this by accident or not, it's still nice to know I'm not typing into the abyss!

    And thank you to all those who take the time to blog. I now know how dedicated you all are. You inspire me every day.

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    Shades Of Spring

    Saturday, 8 February 2014


    The spring colours are creeping in! I do love the deeper colours that are around in winter but you just can't beat a pop of colour on your nails. Lately I've been wearing lots of brighter, more spring inspired colours and absolutely love them.

    BarryM Gelly Nail Paints are one of my favourites in terms of colour. This one is Prickly Pear which is a lovely lilac shade. The formula is creamy and true to the colour in the bottle. It has a decent brush, applies like a dream and is opaque in two coats. 

    I have loads of Gelly nail paints because I love the colours... but they drive me crazy! They chip so badly. I applied this last night and less than 24 hours later the varnish on my whole thumb nail has peeled off and my forefinger and middle finger are really badly chipped. Aaaarrrgh!!

    In my opinion, no other brand in this price bracket matches BarryM in terms of colour. So if you don't mind changing your nail polish frequently and don't have the budget for the likes of the unbeatable Essie, these are great.


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    Words of the Week #1

    Thursday, 6 February 2014


    You know how I love a good quote don't you? I loved my Monday Motivation series but sometimes struggled to get it done each Monday. So my new idea is 'Words of the Week'. That way I'm not tied to a specific day of the week and can share them whenever I come across a particularly good quote. Sound ok to you? Good!

    I'm starting with one of my favourite quotes. It's all about looking forwards and not letting what's happened in the past dictate what you do in the future. It's easy to dwell on something negative that's happened and let it bring you down and stop you from moving on. But each day is a new beginning and your chance to draw a line under the past, take a deep breath and decide that the future is going to be amazing.

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    How To Make Basic White Bread

    Tuesday, 4 February 2014


    I'm not afraid to admit to being scared of baking bread. All that kneading and proving and proving again made it sound time consuming and complicated. What with work, school runs and general mum duties, I never seem to be at home for long enough to get it all done. 

    Well last Monday I finally conquered my fear and baked some bread. Lydia and I decided to have a day at home and I knew it would be a baking day, so I got out my recipe books and started flicking. Once I'd decided to bake some bread, I knew there was only one recipe book I needed... Paul Hollywood's How To Bake.


    I thought I'd start at the beginning and go for a Basic White Loaf. I followed the recipe to the word and was still shocked to see that the dough actually rose! My favourite part was kneading the dough... it's great for getting any frustrations out!

    When it finally came out of the oven and I saw the finished loaf, I was so proud! It looked amazing... and it also tasted gorgeous. Hubby is the bread fiend in our house and he absolutely loved it and ate most of the loaf. 

    The only drawback of conquering my fear of bread is that I can feel myself becoming addicted to making it!


    Basic White Loaf

    500g strong white bread flour
    40g very soft butter
    12g fast-action dried yeast
    1 tsp salt
    300ml tepid water {warm not cold – about body temperature}
    Olive oil or vegetable oil

    Put the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the yeast at one side of the bowl and add the salt at the other {otherwise the salt will kill the yeast} then give them all a good stir to combine.

    Add the butter and half the water. Then get your hand in and give it a good mix in a circular motion. Add more water a little at a time, until all of the flour has been picked up from the sides of the bowl. You might not need to add all of the water, or you might need to add a little more... the dough should be well combined and soft, but not sticky or soggy. Keep going until the mixture forms a rough dough.

    Use a little oil to lightly grease your work surface {using oil instead of flour will keep the texture of the dough consistent}. Turn out your dough onto the greased work surface and knead for about 10 minutes. The dough should be nice and smooth after kneading, if it’s not smooth and elastic and is still tearing as you stretch it, it needs more kneading

    Clean and lightly oil your mixing bowl then put the dough back into it. Cover with a clean tea towel or clingfilm and place it in a warm draught free spot to prove. The dough should double in size which should take about one hour.

    Once the dough has doubled in size scrape it out of the bowl to shape it. The texture should be bouncy and shiny. Knock it back by kneading it firmly to 'knock' out the air. I doubled the dough over, turned it 45 degrees and doubles it again and repeat this a few times. To shape the dough, flatten out it into a rectangle and fold the edges into the centre. Keep folding in the dough to the centre which tightens up the shape and forms a good spine in the centre of the dough. Aim to keep the shape approximately the length of your tin.

    Lightly oil a 900g loaf tin. Place the dough into the tin, cover again and leave to rise in your warm spot until doubled in size. This will take about an hour, but may be quicker or slower depending on how warm your kitchen is.

    Preheat the oven to 220C (200C fan assisted)/425F/Gas 7. Put an empty roasting tin into the bottom of the oven.

    When the dough has doubled in size, uncover it and sprinkle some flour on top. Use a sharp knife to make 2 or 3 shallow cuts (about 1cm/½in deep) across the top of the loaf.

    Put the loaf into the middle of the oven. Pour cold water into the empty roasting tin... this creates steam which helps the loaf develop a crisp and shiny crust. Bake the loaf for about 30 minutes.

    Once baked take it out of the tin straight away. To check if it's properly baked and tap it gently underneath – it should sound hollow. If it's more of a dull noise put it back in the over for a further 5 minutes then check again. Leave it to cool on a wire rack.

    Here are a few tips on the technical part of bread making that I found really helpful.

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