Knitted Fox Blanket


This was a Christmas present for Miss J – a Christmas present I started ten days before Christmas, and still finished on time. I felt like a hero. A tired, tired hero.

 

Fox-Blanket-Floor

 

Admittedly I did have to finish the eyes on Christmas Eve. In the car. And, when we got there, do some final finishing. And then wrap it up secretly, without Miss J seeing, so I could put it under the tree. But still – it was technically finished on time.

 

Fox-Blanket-Face

 

Not only is is super adorable (who doesn’t love a wee sleepy fox face?), it also rolls up for easy storage and carrying around. Which is ideal because this, my friends, is a travel blanket. It’s designed to live in the boot of a car, and then if you get trapped in a winter traffic jam you can wrap it round you and keep cosy. Or if you have a sudden need to picnic, it’s also good for that.

 

Fox-Blanket-Rolled

 

Miss J passed her driving test last year, after taking SECRET DRIVING LESSONS – what a woman. She drives a Volkswagon Fox, so knitting something fox-based and car-related for her Christmas seemed to be the only sensible thing to do.

 

Fox-Blanket-Car

Ready for action!

 

The pattern was a combination of two existing patterns – this Lion Brand travel blanket, and this utterly gorgeous kiddies’ animal blanket by Terhi Viinikanoja – plus some creative thinking and a bit of maths, to work out how to get the size I wanted with the thickness of yarn I was using. I used Stylecraft Life Special Chunky wool, in spice and white, and knitted it all up on a 6mm circular needle – the circular needle was just to hold all the stitches, not for any fancy reason. The nose and eyes were made of double knit black wool I had in my stash – the nose was knitted separately, while the eyes were sewed straight on to the blanket with a tapestry needle. I finished with chunky wooden buttons, one of each colour. There’s something about an oversized button that’s so appealing, isn’t there?

 

That’s the whole fox blanket story – I am so pleased with it and I’m glad to say that, more importantly, Miss J is too. Look, here she is hiding behind it on Christmas day.

 

Fox-Blanket-Miss-J

 

Hard to say which is sweeter, the blanket or the sister. Let’s call it a draw.

 

No wait it’s the sister it’s obviously the sister forget I said that


Stilton and Cranberry Scones


Or maybe they should be called Boxing Day Scones. Or Leftover Cheeseboard Scones. Both work, though they may be a bit literal. I whipped these up on Boxing Day with some cheese that was languishing in the fridge – it was one of my better ideas (and, between you and me, that’s saying something).

 

Stilton-Scones-Top

 

 

They were made and cooling in 45 minutes. Scones really are low maintenance, and they deliver. Oh boy, do they deliver. Here’s the drill – you can make 12 small scones with these amounts, or fewer bigger scones if you feel that way inclined.

 

  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 heaped tbsp baking powder
  • pinch sea salt
  • 60g cold butter, cubed
  • 150g stilton with cranberries
  • 200ml cold milk – this is variable, so proceed with caution
  • 1 extra tablespoon milk, for glazing the tops of the scones

 

Preheat the oven to a hot 220C. Line a baking sheet with paper or foil,and dust very lightly with flour.

 

Mix the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Drop in the butter and rub in with the tips of your fingers. Pinch, lift, rub and drop back into the bowl. Reflect on the past generations of people who have made scones just this way. That part’s optional, but it’s what I always do.

 

Pour in the first 100ml of milk, and mix and cut in with a knife. Add just enough milk so that the dough is ready to hold together, and starts making big clumps but not so much that it’s sticky. The knife is good because you can scrape the dough off on the side of the bowl if it holds too much to the knife, and because you can cut in to any parts of the mix that look too waterlogged. Or milklogged, as it may be. Bring the dough together in the bowl with your hands until you have one, slightly crumbly, ball.

 

Lightly flour your worksurface, and tip the dough out. Knead two or three times, so it all holds together, and pat out flat. No need to roll – you want a circle of dough about 2cm thick.   Cut out the desired size of scones until you can’t make any more, re-rolling the scraps as you need to. Don’t twist the cutter – a straight push down does the trick, and when you lift the scone might stay inside, or might drop back onto the surface. Either is fine. When you only have a little left, roll it up gently and pat down to make a mini scone. Often, this is the best one. Put all the scones on the baking sheet as you go along.

 

Stilton-Scones

Spot the tiny, leftover dough scone? It looks kind of like a hot cross bun…

 

Brush the tops – but not the sides – with milk, sparingly. Milk running down the sides is one of the things that will stop you getting a good rise.   Bake for ten minutes, or a few minutes longer if needed, until golden brown on top. Some of the craberries might scorch a little – that’s OK. It’s just extra oven love.   Cool for ten minutes, and serve – with butter or cream cheese, if you want. They’re not bad just plain, but I’m a fiend for butter on my scones. An absolute fiend, I tell you.

 

See how easy that was? You can sub in other kinds of cheese, but personally I love the low-key, salty stilton with these sweet little bursts of cranberry. Plus, I don’t really like fruity stilton on its own – it’s much better in a scone. Muuuuuuch better.


Coffee and Doughnuts Cake


I ask you: what’s better than a cake? A cake with doughnuts on, of course.

Doughnut Cake Side 2

 

Even if it does look a bit like a UFO.

 

Doughnut Top

 

This idea stemmed from one of my Christmas presents, a pan for baking doughnuts. Two pans, in fact, one for normal-sized ones and one for too-adorable-sized ones (technical term alert). I wanted to use them straight away, and since Mother Rock Salt’s birthday is in early January I had an excellent opportunity to get them into action.

 

Doughnut Top Close

 

The idea for a coffee and doughnuts cake came from Sprinkle Bakes, though I didn’t use Heather’s recipe, just her brilliant idea. For the doughnuts themselves, I adapted a recipe from my (also new) doughnut recipes book and made a buttermilk mix, which uses oil for that authentic moist and chewy texture. For the cake itself, I whipped up something quick, as follows:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 250g golden caster sugar
  • 250g margarine
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • half-ish cup (errr… quantities evaded me, I’m afraid) strongly brewed instant coffee

Throw all the ingredients in the bowl, and mix until combined. That’s it. Bake in 3 8″ cake tins (or one tin, three times) at 180C for 15 – 20 minutes, until golden and a skewer comes out clean.

 

Doughnut Top Candle

 

I sandwiched the three layers and coated the outside with a simple and slightly boozy chocolate ganache:

  • 400g dark chocolate
  • 150ml double cream
  • splash of favourite booze (I used Bailey’s Chocolat Luxe)

Break up chocolate, and put in a bowl with the cream. Heat in the microwave for one minute, then stir thoroughly until all the chocolate is melted. Cool for ten minutes, then add the booze and stir well again. The liquid will firm up and dry out the ganache. Mega bonus hint: you could make truffles with any leftovers.

Doughnut Inside

 

The mini doughnuts, and the full-sized one on top, are glazed with a judged-by-eye combination of icing sugar, cocoa powder and hot water. The carelessly drizzled effect is achieved by an hour of careful dripping and nudging with a teaspoon – next time, dipping them straight in the glaze might be a better option.

 

Doughnut Side Web

 

I applied different sprinkle shapes and glitter to each one. They were beautiful to look at, so colourful. Why are tiny baked goods so pleasing to the eye? Here are a couple of my favourites…

 

Doughnuts Gingerbread Web

 

Doughnut Chocolate

 

Those wee gingerbread men – I die! Snagged them in the reduced aisle at Sainsbury’s and just adore them. I love the chocolate flakes because they made the mini ones look like a proper doughnut that’s been zapped by a shrink ray.

 

Doughnut Cake Slice

 

The coloured dots are super cheerful, and set off nicely against the chocolate. I love that every slice of this cake has a wee passenger, hitching a ride to your plate. Plus I kept the big doughnut on top, and every slice had a little morsel of it (which fell off before serving. It wasn’t as determined as the tiny ones were.).   I glued the doughnuts on all round with a scraping of ganache on the underside, to be sure that they wouldn’t tumble off while I was transporting them. If you are quick enough while you’re decorating, you might be able to stick them straight on to the cake before the frosting hardens, but it doesn’t hurt to have some insurance.

 

Doughnut Cake Slice Close

 

I am so pleased with the whole cake, and especially how even those layers are. Usually I have one giant megasaurus layer, and one shy and skinny layer, but this time I nailed it. Worth the extra time it took to bake the layers separately. Note to self: It might be nice to bake several layers at once. Do you have room for more cake tins in the cupboard? Reply to self: No. No I don’t.

 

Happy birthday, mum!


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