Sunday, October 30, 2011

Toffee Apple Crumble

It's that crumble time of year, and now I've mastered the Plum and Almond Crumble, it's time to move on... I had considered a plain apple crumble for tonight's dessert, but when I mentioned it to BB he pulled what can only be described as 'a face'. 'I'd rather have plum', he said glumly.

Later on I read about a Toffee Apple tart on a foodie blog, but I can't remember which blog at the moment, and then I had a thought, I could make a Toffee Apple Crumble. It has just popped into my mind that BB is not that keen on toffee, not since I bought him a bottle of Dooley's. Have any of you tried it ? It's toffee flavoured vodka, it's OKaaaay.... not my favourite I'm a Baileys girl at this time of year, or most recently an Amaretto girl.

Where was I? Oh yes, so I googled toffee apple crumble and of course a gzillion recipes came up, some called for a pre-made shop-bought toffee sauce, others called for a homemade toffee sauce layered over the apples, which are also precooked in butter. What is this? I thought to myself. I don't want to buy in toffee sauce just for the recipe, and I don't want to have to make a separate sauce. Crumble is supposed to be easy for goodness sake! So, I decided I am going to do an all-in-one toffee and apple mix. Basically, apples, cream and the darkest sugar and it can all caramelize and become toffee-appley together, topped this time with an oaty crumbly top layer.

I haven't made this yet. I have everything but the cream. Come back for a photo and some step-by-step instructions very soon. I can almost taste it.

Friday, October 28, 2011

A new exercise challenge

I am so lucky that my BB encourages me with my running so much. If it wasn't for him, I would probably run less and do less races. This weekend BB is competing in a duathlon in Hyde Park in London, so I am looking forward to supporting him.

Last night I threw down the gauntlet and really made BB laugh, when I challenged him to run Kielder marathon in 2012 and try and beat my result, whilst I would do Kielder duathlon and try and beat his. Of course, he will beat me hands down, on all fronts, but that's not what it's about is it ? My life motto these days, is that if you really, really want to do something, you can. End of story. Stop bitching and whining about it, and get out there and just do it. How hard can it really be ?

To this end, this week I started training for my next marathon challenge. I know it's only three weeks since I completed a marathon, but whilst I am at my 'peak' of fitnesss (relatively) I would like to carry on with the training and run another one. Now all I need to decide is which one.. ?? I just had a quick look. I'm doing another 12 week plan,which takes me to mid-February and guess which one I just found? The London Ultra Marathon. It's pushing the marathon envelope a little further and is 50km, so 32 miles instead of 26.. It's a road race, so tough on the knees, but not so undulating.. Decision, decisions...Is it too soon to step up on the distance. If you think yes, why ??

The XC season has now begun, and I am looking foward to running through some Mud Glorious Mud. For me, this will be starting tomorrow morning when I have to find some hills and run 3 miles up and down them. This week my BB ordered me some new Solomon trail shoes as a post-marathon well done gift and I am looking forward to putting some miles in. I may complete Grim 8, or maybe an IceMan or MudMan race, all of which I have completed before.

If you know of any cool trail races, please drop me a comment and let me know.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

A trip to Chinatown and Chocolate Cookies

A lovely afternoon and lunch with friends in Chinatown in London today, we ate lovely pork buns and beef noodles and prawns in a light silky rice pasta - it was delicious. For desert I tasted a sesame flavoured gelatinous ball with an aniseed flavour inside. Interesting dessert, but not for me - neither in terms of texture nor taste. All of this was washed down with Chinese tea. Lovely!

Now we're back home and about to bake chocolate cookies for the office. I promised a co-worker that I would bring some in to ease the pain of putting up the Halloween decorations and basically to stop everyone from scoffing the Halloween candy !!!

I am following a recipe from across the pond, from one of my favourite foodie bloggers - The Brown Eyed Baker - only one criticism though BEB and that's that I don't, off the top off my head, know what the converted temperature for 325 degrees is, but I did find a handy conversion here:

I also don't know what constitutes a 'stick' of butter - here they come in blocks of 250gr, but I did find it here:
Dontcha just love google ? It's 170gr by the way..

CC just said she doesn't like it when I go on blogspot. I just said to her 'Does it make your tummy hurt when I go on blogspot' and she gave a resounded 'Yes'. I got that from the book that I read many years ago called 'I don't know how she does it' which has suddenly become very popular due to the recent release of the new film of the same name. Anyway, in the book every time the busy mom talks to her boss or someone else that the daughter feels threatens her time with her precious mommy she says 'It makes my tummy hurt when you do that mommy'.. Too funny.

Now I know my measures let me grab my camera and get on with some baking !

Here are some photos for your viewing pleasure, the recipe can be found here, and as I copied it exactly I am not going to repeat it ..

If you don't have chocolate chips, just use chocolate chunks and then chop each chunk into four pieces. Use a sharp knife and press down with your hands keeping your fingers out of the way as my little CC is here.#

Here CC is measuring out vanilla extract.

Yummy chopped chocolate!

Adding the flour.

I like BEB's method of placing the cookie dough, here goes, measure out a quarter of a cup of dough, using a quarter of a cup measure, then twist the ball like you are wringing something out (does anyone actually wring anything out anymore ? I am wondering...) into two equal parts, then place the two jagged edge side by side facing up, and place on the tray. You can, kind of, see what I mean if you look at the bottom left cookie blob on the photo above.

Last photo ...

Ok, there they are, the done deal. Not the best looking batch of cookies in the world, but certainly not the worst either. BEB advises that to achieve a chewy cookie they are taken from the oven when still soft in the middle and, as long as they are kept on the baking tray to cool, they will continue to cook and firm up a little, whilst still retainng the lovely chewiness, that I find so difficult, usually my cookies are crunchy, not gooey.

So, did it work ?? Well, kind of.. I often read about cookie dough going in the fridge before it is baked. I think I would refrigerate this next time as the dough got sticky and melty quite quickly especially a you have to roll it in your hands. I also had to dig the dough out of my cup measure too, which didn't help, heat wise.

Usually, I would flip my cookies straight onto a cooling tray, thereby freeing up my baking tray. Can't do that with this recipe! See my last photo if you want to see what I mean. This meant that I was juggling baking trays, these are pretty large cookies so you don't get many to a  sheet. Soemthing to bear in mind.

Lastly, I sprayed the trays with oil, and used baking parchment on another tray. Actually, the baking parchment is more like wax paper, and was therefore not greaseproof, so I have since had a 'merry game' trying to get the cookies off that paper. One of which ended up in a goeey mess.... the others, well, although they were greased, were a real *pain* to get off the tray, because they were stuck. I guess that was because they were left to finish 'cooking' on the tray.

Well, that's all, gotta get to bed.  Special thanks to my little CC to helping me with these.

Night, night and happy half/mid-term to all those that are enjoying their holidays.

28 October 2011 - An update

These cookies went down a storm at work today. They are far better the day after baking, and tasted just like shop bought chewy cookies. The chocolate chips harden up nicely. I will definitely follow this recipe again, all of those little tips make the recipe really work. A real ten out of ten - and I don't often say that.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Plum and Almond Crumble - Take 2

As promised I went and bought Amaretto liqueur and amaretti biscuits to try another take on the plum and almond crumble with some almondy flavours coming through. I guess I wanted it to taste like of almonds, like a bakewell tart tastes of almonds and I suppose I could have used almond essence or flavouring to achieve this, but the stubborn Taurean best came out in me, and I just didn't want to.

The camera was working again, so I even managed to take some photographs.

Here's the ingredients, see below for the recipe. It's a crumble, so it's pretty straightforward. :o) First, preheat the oven to 200 deg.

1 packet crumble mix (or make your own)
2-3 tablespoons of amaretto liqueur
4 or 5 amaretti biscuits (crushed with a rolling pain)
Plenty of plums to fill your dish (approx 3 per person)
2-3 tbsp Caster sugar


1. Stone and half or quarter the plums (depending how big they are)
2. Measure out the amaretti liqueur and drizzle over the waiting plums. You may want to add a little water too to water down the almondy flavour.
3. Scatter a scant layer of caster sugar over the plums, so now you should have almondy, sugary liquidy loveliness.
4. Take your amaretti biscuits, mine were in individual packets, and crush them (still in their packets, to contain an almond explosion in the kitchen) and then tip them over the plums.

A piccie of an amaretti biccie
5. Add the crumble mix over the amaretti biscuits. 6. Sprinkle a little caster sugar over the crumble topping, it should look something like this.

7. Bake in the oven for about 35-40 minutes. You will know it is done when the plum juices are rising and the crumble is lightly browned.
8. Allow to cool slightly and serve with cream, custard or ice cream.

A perfect autumn pudding.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Plum Crumble and other stuff ...

It's only a week since I completed Kielder marathon, but it feels like a lifetime ago. Yet again, I've been trying to write here all week and time, like a runaway train, has escaped me. Even now, it's 10:10pm and my bed is calling but first, this post.

I've been trying top make plum crumble all week too, and finally succeeded today. I fancied making a plum crumble, flavoured with almond, as that is a great flavour combination, but how to add the almond ? Here is what I did. Please excuse the lack of a photo, the camera has suddenly decided to cease working, which is annoying as I've had a 'I wanna take a photo' kind of weekend.


Enough plums to cover the base of your dish, I used about 10
Sugar to sprinkle
A little water
Marzipan, 50g or so
Crumble mix (sshhhhh), small packet of
Ground almonds, 2-3 tbsp

Preheat the oven to 200 deg.
1. Quarter the plums, removing and discarding the plum stones as you go.
2. Layer the plum quarters in your dish
3. Sprinkle the plums with a little water. This creates a little extra 'jus' as the plums warm and yield their juices.
4. Sprinke a couple of spoonfuls of caster sugar over the plums (to taste), if the plums are sweet use less sugar.
5. Pick some marzipan from the block of marzipan, and roll it into small balls, and dot them around the sugary plums.
6. Sprinkle the marzipan and plums with ground almonds, to layer that almond flavour.
7. Tip the crumble mix over the fruit and grouns almonds.
8. Sprinkle with a litle sugar to help the top caramelize.

Bake in the oven for approximately 40 minutes, by which time the juices will be purpley bubbling, and the top slightly brown. Allow to cool a little, and serve with icecream, cream or custard.

A perfect Autumn warmer.

A postcript to this is that the crumble tasted not one jot of almond, and so was a little disappointing. I will try the leftovers tomorrow and see if there is a hint of almond anywhere at all in the dish.

So, to enhance the almondy flavour thing - next time I make this, I am going to do this:

1. Replace the water above with the equivalent amount of amaretto. An almondy flavour liquer - yum!
2. Replace the ground almonds with amaretti biscuits, which incidentally are made using ground almonds and amaretto liqueur. If I was making my own crumble mix I would definitely add the biscuits to the crumble mix too.

This intensified almondy flavour I am hoping will come through once the crumble is cooked. I'm looking forward to trying the variation - just as soon as I can buy the ingredients.:o)

On a totally different subject, after a week of rest, I am ready to start training for my next marathon. This time I want a flat one. One problem I am having is finding advice on running a marathon, or training for a marathon, after having just completed one. I guess most people aren't mad enough to do one so soon a are they ? Am I supposed to taper ? Start from square one? Do more speed work ? If anyone has any advice on training soon after a marathon I'd be glad to hear it. I think I would have been able to run about 3 days after the race, and I did just a paltry 2 miles this week, on Thursday which was 5 days after my marathon. I'm looking forward to getting back into it properly next week.

One other thing that made this an amazing week, my little CC passed both of her 11+ exams for two different grammar schools. We're out of catchment for one school, but in catchment for the other, so I am sleeping a little easier with those 2 passes in the bag. Phew!

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Kielder Marathon 2011 - or should that be Kieldaaaggghh

I did it. I managed 26 miles of the ups and downs of Kielder. My time was 4:50 - granted, that's quite a long time. My stats are: 142nd woman, and 778th out of 1100 odd. The weather was absolute pants. The run started in drizzle, continued in drizzle, an odd spot of sunsine around mile 18-20 and torrential rain to welcome those coming in at about 5:20. Those poor souls, how I felt for them !

Here's a photo of me, BB and CC. BB did the Run, Bike, Run. (duathlon) on Saturday and CC did the 2km run on Sunday. So, we've all got the t-shirts. Cute!

I am pleased to report that I ran about 95% of the course, and overtook many walkers (no disrespect to the walkers, it was a hard course). There came a point, around mile 22 onwards, when it was just as painful to run as it was to walk, so I ran to get there quicker.

I also realised that if I did this off funky-chicken thing with my arms I went faster up the hills - whatever gets you there quickest, right ? My thanks must go to my SIS (Science in Sport) gels for fuelling me through the miles, without the 9 or so of those that I took I am sure I would not have made it round with such 'ease'. Of course, the ample water at the aid stations also helped those gels slide down.

The only downside of my race was the nausea that set in at mile 20, which fortunately was just that. This wasn't something that I could have predicted, as I only trained to 15 miles, and I've only ever run 16 miles before. It was something I was aware of that could happen though.. At the finish, I was dragged off to the medical tent because I looked 'pale'. After about 5 minutes when the blood had returned to my cheeks, I was able to go in search of my BB and CC. By now, I was getting seriously cold and fortunately I was given the old tinfoil blanket that we've all seen people draped in. Boy, do those work ! It was like being wrapped in an electric blanket. Bliss !

The aftermath goes thus, after the race, I fell into a hot bath and went to bed at 8pm, exhausted. We travelled back to London from Northumbria yesterday so I spent Monday in the car, and today it was back to school/work and life as usual.

If I really, really had to run today, I could. But I won't. It has to be said that the nutrition, and the training paid off, and I am now seeking my next marathon, albeit a flat one next time, methinks...