Bake: Pumpkin & Spice sugar buns

love an ornamental gourd

Autumn sees the return of a most versatile root veg, the humble pumpkin/squash/gourd. Each year I have a little word with myself and promise not to get over excited when the gourds finally hit the stores, and yet, every year come October I have a veritable collection. So far this year I have managed to restrain myself to just the above, along with several butternuts that were of course purely for recipe development purposes and not because I need as many pumpkins as I can possibly lay hands on to deck my halls.

Yes, we’re big fans of pumpkins here at make, do and spend. We hold an annual pumpkin carving party which usually involves good food, friends and some outrageous pumpkin creativity. Highlights of which include last years winner Walter White, enchanted forest scenes and my personal favourite, the bread bus which was born out of a Narborough Rd wide pumpkin shortage!

pumpkin carving party

So theres always quite a bit of pumpkin to be eaten at this time of year and it lends itself particularly well to sweet treats. I’ll be eating these little buns for breakfast this week, these are my kind of comfort food. At this time of year enriched buttery doughs are what I crave, particularly when combined with dark sugar and spice!

To Make 12 Pumpkin and spice sugar buns you will need

  • 430g strong bread flour
  • 40g caster sugar
  • 7g salt
  • 40g unsalted butter
  • 1 medium egg
  • 10g yeast
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 130g pumpkin puree- this is around half a pumpkin squash, roasted to the below method

for the filling

  • 30g butter at room temporature
  • 2 tbls dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 tbls ground cinnamon
  • 1 tbls ground ginger

for maple and cream cheese topping

  • 150g cream cheese
  • 30g maple syrup

how to roast pumpkin

To make the pumpkin puree pre-heat an oven to 180°C and cut the pumpkin into chunks leaving the skin on. place in a roasting tray and pour about 1/2 an inch of water into the base- this will add steam to the roasting process and help break down the fibers of the pumpkin. Roast the pumpkin for around 20-30 minutes until soft. Allow too cool, then peel off the skins and puree using a  blender.

To make the dough warm the milk to blood temp, so it’s cool enough to comfortably hold your little finger in for a few seconds. Add the yeast, stir until both are well combined and set aside.

Place the flour, pumpkin puree, salt, sugar, butter and egg into the bowl of an electric mixer with a dough hook attachment. Start the mixer on a slow speed and stream in the yeast and milk mixture slowly until all the ingredients come together to form a dough, turn the mixer up a little and knead the dough for around 5 minutes so the butter is well incorporated and the dough smooth and shiny. Allow the dough to prove for 1 hr or so until doubled in size.


Once proved transfer the dough to a well floured surface and roll the dough into a rectangle measuring around 30cm x 55cm.

dot the butter across the surface of the dough then sprinkle over the sugar and spices.

Starting with the long edge roll the dough tightly into a long sausage then divide the dough into 12 equal pieces.

cinnamon buns rolled

Lightly grease a muffin tin with butter or non stick baking spray and place each bun into the tray, cut side up so the swirl of the sugar and spice is visible, allow the dough to prove for a further 30 minutes and pre-heat oven to 160°C. once the buns have doubled in size transfer to the oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden brown and the buns make a hollow sound when tapped on the base

just baked

Allow to cool whilst preparing the cream cheese topping, in a mixing bowl combine both the cream cheese and maple syrup and fold together. place a spoonfull of the topping over each bun and smooth with the back of a spoon.

for the frosting 3

What are your favourite pumpkin recipes?

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

VISIT: Copenhagen – Part One

Last September I spent an amazing couple of weeks in South Africa with my mum – and we had so much fun (and earned so many flight points) that we figured this holidaying together thing was worth making an annual tradition

So a few weeks ago we headed to the Danish capital of Copenhagen, arriving late Tuesday afternoon and leaving early Friday afternoon

We rented a beautiful apartment in the upmarket town of Hellerup, just a short train/bus journey outside the city centre and close to the beach

I love finding travel recommentations from other bloggers, so always aim to pass on my own experiences in the hope I can in some way return the favour

Here’s a taster of our holiday, in brief…

TUESDAY – evening

Pizza and pasta Park in Hellerup

I love that my mum is the kind of person who is more than happy to shun a posh restaurant to eat pizza on a park bench

And what a pizza – and dish of stuffed pasta – it was!

It was Tripadvisor reviews which led us to Franco Delicatezze – and a mixture of indecision and hunger which led us to order so much food

Eaten in a nearby park, where this couple lying by the pond (photo above) seemed to have moved their duvet from their bed to the grass

WEDNESDAY – morning

Danish pastries and coffee Nyhavn Nyhavn

Our full first day started with a breakfast of muesli and fruit at the apartment, before making our way into the city

After buying open top bus tickets for the day, we found ourselves with 20 minutes to kill and decided this was best spent sampling our first Danish pastries in the sunshine – who knew the coffee would also come with biscuits!

We then hopped across to Nyhavn – a colourful harbourside which was once home to Hans Christian Andersen, but now is a great place to eat, shop and stroll

Kastellet Kastellet The Little Mermaid

Next we took a short bus trip to the edge of what we thought was just a public park, but turned out to be the Kastellet – a fortress in a star shape

It now contains military barracks and offices but is open to the public – I loved the symmetry in some of the buildings

And then we wandered on to Copenhagen’s most famous landmark, The Little Mermaid

She was easy to find – we just followed the trail of other tourists!

WEDNESDAY – afternoon

Lunch at SMK SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark

Another quick hop on/off the tourist bus and we arrived outside the National Gallery of Denmark (aka SMK)

Before taking in just a small proportion of the country’s largest art gallery, we were in need of nourishment so sat down for a smoked ham, fennel and chutney sandwich in the cafe

I was far too excited about pouring my mineral water from a carton rather than a bottle – it’s the little things that please

View from SMK - The National Gallery of Denmark IMG_1463

It really was a stunning day and I loved how relaxed people outside the museum seemed – sipping juices and dangling their feet in the pool outside

We were tempted to join in, but instead headed to the beautiful gardens across the road, which surround Rosenborg Castle

The castle is open to visitors and we took a tour of the wonderfully preserved rooms – our favourite being one full of mirrors, which created an unusual optical illusion – and saw some of the crown jewels

WEDNESDAY – evening

Panto at Tivoli Tivoli by night

Our final destination for the day was somewhere we’d probably been looking forward to visiting the most – Tivoli Gardens

The second oldest amusement park in the world, it’s said to have inspired Disneyland

Arriving while it was still light, we wandered round watching (rather than riding!) the varied mix of rollercoasters and spinning contraptions, before settling down to watch a panto-ballet show on the beautiful peacock stage

After a tasty al fresco dinner at Restaurant Groften, we sought out a home-made icecream cafe and wandered round the park once again, now transformed by thousands of colourful lights

Charming and magical – it’s a must visit

Standby for part two of our Copenhagen adventures… but until then, I’d love to know about your experiences of the city

Tagged , , , , ,

Make: Elderberry Vodka

foraging for elderberries

Autumn, my favorite time of year. Not least because it brings with it an abundance of fresh produce ripe for picking. On my daily commute to work I’ve been keeping an eye on the progress of elderberries. The way nature transforms through the seasons never ceases to amaze me, the soft lacey white flowers that lined our hedgerows just a few months ago have given way to deep burgundy stalks, their heads hang heavy with berries.

So, I am happy to announce that they are now officially ready.

Last weekend, C and I took a little Sunday afternoon walk. Armed with scissors and a box to collect our loot in, we had our first foraging adventure of the season. Elderberries aren’t commercially grown so the only way to get hold of them is to get out there and explore the English hedgerows

hedgerows lined with Elder

We collected around 15 heads of elder, which is the amount needed to make the below recipe. Usual foraging rules apply, always pick above waist height and leave a few heads for the birds who will also be needing these berries over the coming months.

collecting elderberries

To Make Elderberry Syrup you will need:

  • 1 litre of vodka
  • 500g elderberries, stalks removed
  • 200g sugar
  • The zest of a lemon
  • 2 x clean, sterilised 1 litre capacity bottles to store the booze in

The fastest way to separate the berries from their stems is to gently pull them away from the stalks with the back of a fork. It can get messy and elderberry is a natural dye so can stain. I recommend taking this task outside if possible.

Once ready, discard the stalks and split the berries between the two bottles.

Next divide the lemon zest and sugar between the two bottles, I used elderflower sugar made earlier in the year as I like to layer up the flavours. Vanilla sugar would work well too, if you have it to hand.

Finally, add half a litre of vodka to each bottle and, lid on, give both bottles a good shake to get the flavours going.

removing the berries from the stalks

Store the bottles in a cool dark place so the booze can infuse. shake the bottles regularly, about once a week, to ensure the sugar dissolves completely. I find it’s always worth having a cheeky taste once in a while too, just to check progress.

The booze takes around 3 months to infuse, so if made now it will be ready just in time for Christmas.

elderberry vodka

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , ,

No bake: Watermelon cake

watermelon cake

This week saw the return of The Great British Bake Off to our TV screens, it’s one of my very few must watch programmes and i’m very excited to be tuning in every wednesday over the next few weeks to watch the competition unfold. It was great to see the series kick off with some magnificent cakes, (And some less so!) its also a hot topic of conversation amongst my foodie friends, so strangely enough all this baking got me thinking about not baking.

Sometimes there just isn’t time, sometimes one of these fabled warm weather days arrives in the UK and the thought of turning the oven on is just a little too much to bear and sometimes its good to have a healthy cake on the menu. It just so happened that this weekend the weather has been a little brighter and a summer BBQ was called for to celebrate this momentous occasion. C and I planned a feast, pork belly, burgers, sausages, meat, meat, meat basically! So we decided watermelon would provided the perfect antidote for desert

We live on the Narborough rd in Leicester, Aka “the Narb” to us locals where one can pretty much acquire anything your heart desires, it’s entirely possible to exist solely on the offerings of the Narbourgh rd, should you want to.

I’ve spotted quite a few enormous watermelons on my weekend strolls and decided that this was to be the weekend to purchase the largest watermelon I could find. 10kg to be precise.

So, I carried the Watermelon,

In a blue plastic bag Down the Narbourough rd, it wasn’t terribly glamorous but my head was spinning with ideas of what to make. Watermelon vodka is always a winner at adult BBQs but I was tempted to try something a little different and created this refreshing three tier watermelon cake instead.

watermelon cake 1watermelon cake 5

The good news is watermelon cakes are pretty simple to make, all you really need is a good sharp knife. Here follows an explanation of how to achieve this for next time you have an enormous watermelon handy. There are many virtuous qualities to this cake also. It’s vegan, refined sugar free, gluten free, nut free so no need to feel guilty about diving in!

Slice your watermelon across the middle into 3 even slices to create the three tiers. Cut circles out of the flesh inside the watermelon, for this I used bottomless cake rings, 8″ for the base, 6″ for the middle and 4″ for the top tier. once you have the three tiers cut you can sharpen up any edges or straighten the tops of each tier if necessary so each layer stacks evenly. That being said, if the cakes are a little wonky this adds a little drama so don’t worry too much! Stack the layers on top of each other. No dowels needed as the watermelon itself is pretty sturdy. Once stacked, it’s time for the fun bit, get creative and decorate your watermelon cake with fresh fruit and berries and if you have any to hand edible flowers work a treat. Here i’ve used nasturtium, lavender, sweet peas, fennel and dahlia petals so the cake is entirely edible.

So next time you fee like baking consider this colourful, refreshing and above all healthy option, and of course you could also douse the cake with vodka too if you wanted to liven things up a bit!

watermelon cake 2watermelon cake 3watermelon cake 4

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Bake: Masala Chai macarons

macarons colours

Macarons are quite possibly my favourite sweet treat ever. I can’t think of anything that makes me happier than a display of these brightly coloured almond delights all lined up in an array of exciting flavours. That being said when it comes to making them they have long eluded me. I’ve had so many failed attempts from french to Italian meringue base experiments which have often resulted in some very tasty biscuits and on one occasion, during an experiment with powdered egg white, some very peculiar miniature cakes. Through all the experiments I had never quite managed to achieve that perfect bake profile with a crisp shell and chewy centre, that is until now…..

A few months ago I decided it was time to get serious about this, how can any self respecting baker not be able to master the art of macarons? I poured over recipes and researched other peoples success stories, it seems I was not alone in my plight and a suitable method for these little tinkers is often a personal journey of trial and error.

It was around this time that I remembered a recipe given to me by my friend Liz. Post a disastrous weekend of baking Liz had offered me the french meringue recipe she used whilst working as a pastry chef in a restaurant run by her family high in the mountains of Morzine. Liz had assured me that this recipe had never let her down, even baking them at a high altitude in the heart of the French Alpes, so this was an encouraging place to start.

I followed Liz’s recipe to the T and when the first batch came out reasonably well I had to have another crack, and then another, Raspberry and chocolate then lemon and pistachio followed by chocolate and hazelnut, I was churning them out and by the time I stopped I spent around two days baking nothing but macarons! It had been a long old slog but finally I was making macarons to an acceptable standard.

I decided a masala Chai tea party was in order to celebrate my new found skill.

spice blend

To Make Masala Chai spice blend you will need:

  • half a cinnamon stick
  • 1 & 1/2 tsp powdered ginger
  • half a tsp powdered cardamom – or the seeds from 3 pods
  • 2 white peppercorns
  • 1 clove
  • 1 head of star anise – or 1/2 tsp powdered star anise

Place all ingredients into a spice blender or pestle and mortar and rind to a fine powder. For Masala Chai tea with this spice blend place 1 tablespoon of the mix into a saucepan along with 750ml milk and two black tea bags, bring to a simmer, then transfer to a teapot to infuse. To serve, strain the mix through a fine sieve or tea strainer into tea cups.

stiff whites

To Make Liz’s Macarons you will need: 

  • 1 Tbls Chai spice blend
  • 1 black tea bag
  • 120g icing sugar
  • 80g ground almonds
  • 2 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 50g caster sugar

This recipe makes 18-20 macarons

Pre-heat the oven to 120°C. Sift the icing sugar and ground almonds together with the chai spice and the contents of the tea bag, discard any large lumps of almond that aren’t fine enough to go through the sieve. 

Whisk the egg whites along with a pinch of salt until stiff, then add the caster sugar a spoonful at a time and bring the whites up to stiff peak, and when I say stiff, I’m talking hold the bowl over your head stiff, this is key to getting the crisp shell and lift. This may take around 5 minutes.

Fold the almond mix into the whites in two halves, add the first half to lighten the mix, then add the second. Transfer the mix to a piping bag and pipe even circles around an inch in diameter onto a baking tray lined with silicone paper. Once piped lift the tray up and drop it onto the work surface, this will encourage any air bubbles in the mix to rise to the surface, repeat this 5 times. If after slamming the tray there is still a point where the macaron has been piped this can be removed by placing a dampened finger onto the macaron to level it off. Allow the macrons to sit for 15 to 20 minutes to skin over.

Place the macarons into the pre-heated oven 1 tray at a time. All ovens have hot spots so the positioning of the tray in the oven can also affect the finished result of the macarons. I experimented with different shelves in the oven and for me the second shelf up from the bottom gave the best results. Bake for 10 minutes, turning the tray around after 7 minutes to ensure an even colour all over.

Once cool the macarons can be filled with a filling of your choice. I use nutella as a filling for this batch, but chocolate ganache works very well also.


macarons 1

chai teamacarons 2the end

A big thank you to Liz for letting me share her recipe. Further macaroon tips and tricks are available at Coco Cake Land and food 52

Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,