Meringue Christmas Trees

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We had a text from school today asking for cake donations for the kids Christmas party in two days time! There’s nothing like a bit of notice is there?! Anyway, it was our day off, and I happened to be at home, so I had time to rustle something up. I wanted something easy, and straightforward, which didn’t require many ingredients, but at the same time, something the kids would love, and that looked festive. These simple little meringues were just the ticket.

When making meringue my general rule of thumb is 1 egg white to 50g caster sugar. I whisked 2 egg whites until frothy before adding in 100g caster sugar a dessertspoon full at a time. Halfway through adding the sugar I added a couple of blobs of green food gel.

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Once the meringue was stiff and glossy I put it into a piping bag with a large nozzle and piped little Christmas tree shapes on a lined baking tray. I got 17 out of this batch.

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I put them on the middle shelf of the oven, which I’d preheated to 100oC. The key to these meringues is to cook them low and slow. That way they’re crispy and light all the way through. I cooked these for two and a half hours, then turned the oven off leaving the door shut until they were completely cool.

Once cool, I melted 50g each of milk and dark chocolate in a bain marie and dipped the bottoms of the trees in. Now, had I had any rolos in the house, I would spooned a little melted chocolate on top of an upturned rolo, and stuck the tree on top to give the effect of a trunk. But, I didn’t have rolos, so dipping had to suffice.

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I put the remaining choc in a pipping bag and used it as glue stick on little decorations. Edible glitter and dust gave them a final flourish.

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No doubt the kids will love them…not sure the same could be said for the parents come bedtime!

The holiday snake

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Here in the UK, the school term has just come to an end which means the majority of children’s groups close for at least six weeks. For us, this means no nursery, no toddler groups, no Creation Station. All organised activities on hold, oh, except for the the crèche at the gym… Praise the Lord for small mercies!

Phoebe, like every other three year old on the planet, has absolutely no concept of time, referring to what happened yesterday as, “when I was a baby”, and “in six weeks time” to her may as well be six years.

So, to help her understand she won’t be going back to nursery for a long while I decided to draw a huge ‘Holiday Snake’, with a segment for each day that she can cross off; a super long advent calendar if you will, counting down to nursery. I’m hoping this will make the transition of getting back into the nursery routine easier at the end of summer, seeing as she’ll literally be able to see it coming on the calendar.

A snake seemed the obvious way to go, given the shape of its body lends itself well to accommodating seven weeks worth of segments. I drew it out on a roll of lining paper, then we all joined in to decorate it before sticking it on the back of the porch door.  We can fill in activities on it as we plan them, and it’ll be fun to look back over them at the end of summer to see just what we’ve been up to.

Enjoy the pics…

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Ice cream cone cupcakes.

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I know these babies have been popular in the USA for a while now, but here in the UK they’re still a bit of a novelty. With our church hosting a Light Party (alternative to Halloween) this afternoon, I figured the kids would love a bit of a treat. Here’s how to make these incredibly simple cone cupcakes:

Firstly buy the short ice cream cones which have a flat bottom so they’ll stand up. Make your cake batter and then cover a cupcake tray with tin foil. Push the cones through the foil (this works best of you puncture the foil worth a knife first). The foil will give them some stability and so them falling over in the oven.

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Then fill the cones with the cake batter up to the first line of the cone. As you can see from the pictures I was a little over enthusiastic with the batter and overfilled them which caused a few of them to spill over the sides during the baking process.

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Bake in a preheated oven at about 160oC for about 20 minutes or until a skewer comes clean. You’ll end up with something like this:

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Now for the icing. I made white  buttercream but wanted it to be a bit more colourful so in the piping bag I drew a line of red, purple, green and blue food colorings before carefully adding the white buttercream trying not to smudge the colours.

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Then, from the outside of the cupcake, start a swirl working inwards to create the affect of a ‘Mr Whippy’ ice cream.

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Everyone knows an ice cream isn’t complete without some adornment so I used peppermint straws as makeshift flakes.

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I had some left over buttercream so iced a few regular cupcakes with a rose style. For this start at the centre of the cake and swirl outwards.

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Well that’s all for today folks. I’ve got a party to go to! Here’s all this mornings baking ready to go…

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Making scents of Christmas

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At the bottom of our garden, just over the fence, we have a rather majestic 300 year old oak tree. It stands proud, its branches enveloped in ivy. Every few years though it drops hundreds of acorns all over lawn, and this year is one of them.

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Concerned about an orchard of little oak trees sprouting on our land, I decided that Phoebe and I should gather up as many acorns as we could. Phoebe got bored fairly quickly…

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We eventually ended up with a large tub of acorns although looking at the ground you wouldn’t have known we’d been there!

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Most of them went to an early grave in the brown bin, but we kept a couple of handfuls to display in my oversized martini glass.

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Although pretty, they needed a bit of something extra to lift them which is when I thought about doing out some sliced clementines, star anise, cloves and cinnamon in the oven to make a Christmas scented pot-pourri (for want of a better word… Pot-pourri sounds so 80’s!).

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It couldn’t be easier and is a fun thing to do with kids. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper, slice the clementines and put on the paper, sprinkle on everything else and bake in a low oven for a couple of hours until the clementines have dried out. Your house will smell amazing.

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Once dried out, toss the clementine mixture with the acorns and display. You can keep the scent fresh by adding a few drops of essential oil every so often. I like to use frankincense or cinnamon. This warm, homely smell is bound to get you in the mood for Christmas… Even in October!

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