Happy Christmas – The Rosca de Reyes results are in!

A very decadent Rosca de Reyes - 3 Kings Cake

A very decadent Rosca de Reyes – 3 Kings Cake

Wow what a year this has been indeed! We’ve made it over half way around the world in 80 bakes, ran my first half marathon (raising over £700 for Oxfam!), baked (and devoured) some wonderful (and some not so wonderful…) cakes AND been very lucky indeed to win the Blog North Best Food and Drink Blog Award.

Great North Running

Great North Running

And that’s not even the end of this amazing year’s excitement, it doesn’t all finish there! I’m very excited to let you know that I won the online bake off and £500 of holiday vouchers for my Rosca de Reyes 3 Kings Cake! Amazing! Thank you all so much for reading, commenting and also voting for me. I can’t thank you enough for your support and love. We will be using the £500 of Cosmos Holiday vouchers to book our honeymoon in the new year, a trip somewhere hot and relaxing will be perfect after our wintery wedding (which is taking place in less than 2 days…)! Fingers crossed the cake stays upright!

A golden Rosca de Reyes

A golden Rosca de Reyes

The lucky winner of the £50 very.co.uk voucher is Jenny B. The company will contact you directly to arrange your voucher. Thank you so much for voting!

I can’t go without mentioning the 4 brilliant bakers and bloggers, in the Rosca de Reyes bake off. They are exceptionally good bakers and I’ve been enjoying their blogs for over a year now and follow them all on twitter. I really recommend checking out their blogs, if you haven’t done so already. They are very talented and inspirational foodie bloggers.

I hope you all have had a wonderful Christmas and are looking forward to the New Year as much as me. I will be returning shortly as a married baker, with a new name and everything. Looking forward to letting you know how my biggest challenge so far pans out… my 5 tier wedding cake!

Lots of love and happy new year!

Lauren x x x

p.s Now would be a perfect time to have a go at baking your own Rosca de Reyes to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6th.

p.p.s. My golden Rosca de Reyes – 3 Kings Cake even got a mention in the The Mirror within an article about Christmas eats and treats around the world!

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Only 2 days to the Great North Run!

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And I have ran more than 500 miles! (in training so far!)

Who would have thought that I would ever get this far after deciding late one night that it would be a sensible idea to sign up to run the Great North Run for Oxfam? Less than 5 months later and I’m counting down the final few days to the big race feeling a bit nervous and majorly impressed by the amount of support and advice that my family and friends have offered me. I just reached the astonishing £500 mark far surpassing my original £300 target!

It’s definitely been an adventure this half marathon training malrkey. Long gone are the days where I staggered to complete 3 miles and embarrassed to be seen running in public, I sprinted past anyone heading my way resulting in a hyperventilating and fushia coloured Lauren.

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Our 10 Mile Jelly race! What a hot day! Only meet to run 3.1 more miles to make the Great North Run

I remember my first 6 mile race where I hadn’t actually done any real training or ran 3 miles without stopping. My pre race preparations involved adding an extra layer of make up, youknow in case the St John Ambulance crew had to pick me up off the roadside. At least they would think ‘well she looks alright, she made an effort.’ I have a feeling my  pre race ritual will be somewhat different on Sunday morning!

Now I have (somehow!) managed to run 10 miles without stopping in 1 hr 34mins!! I only had to pause once to pour water into my trainers to soothe my burning bones. It was a VERY hot day. I  even got a sun tan on my arms!

 The highlights of my training so far includes…
  • being the fittest I’ve ever been!
  • having abs without holding my breath in! (I can actually see them and they’re real!)
  • spending more time outdoors
  • enjoying the sunshine (and somehow I’ve also learnt to enjoy the rain even when torrential)
  • making new friends without who I would never have made it through those very necessary long training runs! I salute your route planning skills!! And thank you for your encouragement!!
  • challenging myself to go beyond what I thought I was capable of
  • pushing myself way way outside my comfort zone
  • seeing a difference in my legs too! They’re strong!
  • trying new complimentary exercise. Hot yoga!
  • exploring parts of England I would never normally see on foot
  • there’s something glorious about being the only one running through a woodland with the Sun light streaming through the trees and discovering a beautiful waterfall and squirrels running free
  • running by myself and learning to enjoy it
  • learning to regulate my breathing
  • being able to eat everything in sight!
  • using running to actually get to and from places much quicker than walking
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    Running up THAT Hill!!

 What I’m looking forward to post GNR
  • resting!
  • sorting out the rest of our wedding (only 3 months to go!)
  • baking and decorating my 4 (or maybe 5) tiered wedding cake
  • not aching in various places
  • running the Edinburgh 10k!
  • no longer requiring blister plasters as part of my weekly shop
  • not spending the majority of my free time being hot and sweaty
  • wearing pretty clothes more often
  • getting showered at work
  • having more of a social life!
  • baking more aroundtheworldin80bakes experiments!

I’m counting down the hours now until the big race on Sunday and trying to remain calm! Here’s hoping for a good time! I will let you know how I get on!I’m aiming to get a hi five from Mo Farah who’s starting the race this year!

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Some International tiered cake inspiration from Amsterdam

Thank you everyone for reading for for all the support so far. If you would like to sponsor me please visit my Just Giving Page www.justgiving.com/Lauren-Prince 

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My Oxfam Vest

37. Moroccan Basboosa (Semolina Slice)

Basboosa Baby

Lauren of Arabia

J’adore Morocco, the heat, the people, the beauty, the adventures into the Sahara and camping out under the stars. The food and desserts are amazing. I ate many a tagine and honey soaked sweets when we visited Marrakesh.

into the desert we go

Food Heaven

Having purchased the worlds largest bag of semolina I needed a recipe to put it to good use. I have vaguely horrific memories of semolina pudding every day for as part of of our school dinners and me disliking it so much I pretended to sneeze into my bowl so I could have it removed. But the dinner nannies soon wised up to my rouse and refused to let me get away with refusing semolina.

Thankfully my taste palette has refined somewhat since I was 6years old. I now even eat peas and broccoli!

Basboosa all lined up and ready to go

Basboosa is a middle Eastern dessert and seems to be from Morocco and Egypt too. It reminds me of Baklava which I love and you may remember me attempting to make from scratch…

Thankfully Basboosa doesn’t involve the shelling of hundreds of pistachios or the creation of millions of layers of paper thin filo pastry! This is one quick bake the I will be definitely repeating in the future!

Sugar and water to bubble into a syrup

I began with the syrup. Unfortunately I didn’t have an orange flower water so I ad libbed and utilised the lemon and orange extracts I have in my cupboard. I think rose water would work just as well too.

The key to this bake is sugar. And LOTS of it. The syrup requires a lot of simmering to reduce it to about 2 cups worth but it still seemed very watery to me. I put faith in my Marks and Spencer recipe and hoped for the best.

1 KG of semolina!!!

While the pan bubbled merrily on the stove I measured out 1kilogram (yes 1 KG!) of ground semolina! (I checked about 4 times that I had read this right as it seems like a massive amount and just about fitted into my biggest mixing bowl!

Precariously full bowl of sandy semolina

Adding in the sugar the mixing bowl was precariously full and could only be mixed with my bare hands, a spoon would just have tipped things over the edge completely!

Butter and milk on the stove

Then to gently warm the milk and butter on the stove until the butter melts completely.

Thoroughly melted butter and milk

Once it’s thoroughly melted (and hopefully a little less frothy than mine) it’s  ready to add to the semolina. This was a delicate process. There didn’t seem to be enough liquid to bring the dry semolina and sugar together into a paste at all.

Bind us together – oh butter sugar and semolina

Nevertheless I perservered and gingerly (the milk was a bit hot) took to mixing it by hand again until lo and behold I had a semolina paste!

Pastey Semolina

Tipping the bowl upside down into my greased and lined deep baking dish the semolina required a little coaxing to flatten it out completely into all the corners.

bowl shaped semolina paste – into the tray you go

Once it was relatively flat I smoothed the surface with a wet hand and squashed it down into the tin to avoid any bubbles or gaps in the bake.

Flattened and smoothed semolina

Taking the syrup off the stove  (I added a dash more orange extract as I realised I had added it too early and it may have mostly evaporated…) popped it into the fridge to chill it, ready for it’s next job.

Syrupy and ready for a good chilling

With a sharp unserated knife I attempted to score the semolina into equally sized diamond shapes (this befuddled my brain somewhat so I ended up with all sorts of shapes and sizes).

Zig zags in the semolina (supposedly diamond shaped)

I popped the tray in the oven then quickly realised I forgot to pop the almonds onto each diamond! Quick as a flash I studded each piece with a blanched almond and threw it back in the oven.

Studded Semolina – check out those blanched almonds (better late than never)

Then a cup of tea and a spot of Mary Poppins is all you need to do whilst the bakes for an hour and a half! (Mary Poppins is optional but it was choice du jour)

Soaked in Syrup

Once the semolina is golden brown and firm to touch it’s ready for a final slice with sharp knife and a good drowning in chilled orange syrup. I poured half of the very liquid syrup over the baked semolina and worried that it was a bit too much! It definitely required a break for absorption! Half an hour later I poured the rest of the syrup over and let the Basboosa relax and take it’s time to drink up the sweet orange flavour.

Totally soaked basboosa

Once it’s all absorbed it’s ready for eating! I REALLY loved this bake. It’s baklava-esque and shortbread-ey. Just the perfect accompaniment to a cup of tea. It has quite a distinctive crumbly texture which some may not enjoy, I suppose it could be a bit dry if you didn’t pour all of the syrup over it too.

But as it’s a wheat derivative it has CARBS and is full of SUGAR so this is a perfect pre run treat. (I’m now running what I had always considered to be beyond my wildest dreams… 10 miles! Who’da thunk it? Admittedly this was by accident as I got hopelessly lost one afternoon/evening but I now know that I can do it! And I now have a freezer stocked full of this sugary pick me up.)

Basboosa Baby

This recipe makes a LOT of Basboosa, about 23 pieces – or more if you cut it into smaller pieces. It is very sweet so you probably don’t need a huge slice but it also keeps really well. Once the syrup crystalises it has a lovely glittery sugary crunchy top too. 🙂

I hope you like it as much as me!

Things I used to make Basboosa…

  • 1 kg ground semolina
  • 2 1/2 cups of sugar (550g)
  • 1 cup milk (250ml)
  • 125g butter
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds (40g)

Syrup

  • 3 cups water (750ml)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1 and 1/2 cups sugar ((330g)
  • 2 teaspoons of orange extract  (or Orange blossom water/rose water)
  • 2 teaspoons of lemon extract

Equipment

  • one 20cm x 30cm x 5cm baking tray
  • oven at 140 degrees c (fan assisted oven) 160degrees C normal oven

 

Running Wild With Raw Almond Butter

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Apparently it’s very easy to make your own Raw Almond Butter and it’s supposed to be really good for you. (Especially, if like me, you’re training to run half marathons.) I had to give it a whirl.

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Perserverance is the key to making your own almond butter. It should only take 10 minutes of whizzing up almonds in a food processor to produce wholesome wonderment… However an hour later my head and ears were buzzing from the incessant food processor screeches and I was getting a bit annoyed.

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You may remember that in my wisdom this year, I have decided to run The Great North Run (all 13.1 miles of it) to raise money for Oxfam.I am trying my best to train as much as possible to gradually reach my target distance, but a few niggles have made the path to fitness nirvana rather steep.

So far I’ve;

  •  Been chased and bitten by an overly excited dog

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  • Been pursued by cows (Please note cows seem to like red running tops)
  • Bruised my spine running with my haversack on after work (Note: do not attempt to run home wearing a pair of cowboy boots and a jar of jam on your back)
  • Bought and broke 2 running haversacks
  • Cut my collarbones (see the previous statement)
  • Developed shinsplints and rhinitis
  • Endured 4 ice baths to ease the shinsplints! (For those unfamiliar with the extreme pleasure of an ice bath they are best enjoyed with your pants ON, a cup of tea, almond butter toast and wearing a hoodie)
  • Entered (and completed) 3 competitive races!
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with more races still to come… Gateshead 10k

  • Cut my toes and didn’t even notice (perhaps this is what people mean when they talk about ‘getting into the zone’?!)
  • Purchased a running wardrobe. (There’s a lot of fluorescent pink in there now.)
  • Eaten an inordinate amount of cake (running makes me hungry!)
  • Developed muscles I didn’t know I owned
  • Practiced a lot of yoga to stretch out those weary muscles…
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Carpet Yoga (note Super Hans’helping’ in the background)

Yet I’m undeterred! In fact I’ve even threw myself in at the deep end. Running in the UK monsoon conditions, which others may call ‘the Summer’, with my eyes closed as it’s too difficult to keep them open (perhaps this is a talent that I didn’t know I possessed?) and an all terrain 10k trail run.

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A spot of flash flooding up North to keep us on our toes

Almond Butter, promised me a miracle. It’s a high protein food that is full of Vitamin E and supposed to help prevent sore muscles and ease my aching legs! Hurrah! AND I had a bag of almonds already in the cupboard. It had to be made.

I threw a 200g bag of almonds (with their skins on) into the food processor and turned it up high. It wasn’t particuarly happy with this challenge, but with a little encouragement it ploughed through the almonds.

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Looking like ground almonds

About 4 minutes in (and a bit a scrapping down the sides of the bowl)the almonds looked like ground almonds, the kind you would use in macaroons. So you could make your own ground almonds from scratch too if you wished.

The instructions said to keep going and blitz them up as much as possible. About 10minutes in the almonds should ‘release’ their oils. This means that the almonds should then ball up in to a nice big lump of almond butter.

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Looks like the oils are being ‘released’ -scrambled nuts

However mine did not. It just kept looking like scrambled eggs made out of almonds and sticking infuriatingly to the bottom of the bowl. I religiously scraped the bowl with my spatula to ensure all of the almonds were getting an even blitzing, so much so my spatula got a bit sliced up on the blade and had to go to spatula Heaven. RIP trusty spatula.

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Adding coconut oil and honey – starting to come together….

Apparently you probably don’t need to add any oil to the mix as the almonds have enough oil to suffice. However I couldn’t get mine to stick together so I gradually added coconut oil, another super running food full of energy and good stuff (I clearly known my science stuff here) to help with those extra miles, until I got it to more of a paste like consistency. I also added a good slosh of honey to sweeten the mix, tasting it as I went to make sure it was to my liking.

Eventually I realised that I wasn’t going to get a peanut butter smoothness or glossy texture so I declared my Almond Butter done and popped the lot into a jam jar, ready for my pre run toast.

It is a little on the dry side and almost savoury (maybe I didn’t add enough honey or oil?!) but I quite like it. It doesn’t have any preservatives in it and it almost tastes healthy. You could use rapeseed oil or any other oil that you prefer too.

As it contains no preservatives, it needs to be stored in the fridge as the almond oil may go rancid. However the honey may help to preserve it as it’s the only natural substance that does not go off!

I’m going to see if I can incorporate my Almond Butter into some international baking too, but for now I’m going to just enjoy it on toast and spread on various fruits and vegetables too. Or if I’m feeling particularly lazy (or in a hurry) I might save myself the effort and chew on a handful of almonds instead…

The Final Product! Raw Almond Butter

Things I used to make my Raw Almond Butter

  • 200g of whole almonds with their skins on
  • A liberal splash of coconut oil (any oil would suffice)
  • Runny honey ( 1 to 2 tbsp)
  • A Strong Food Processor

An Experimental Month

I seem to have been experimenting a lot this month with various non aroundtheworldin80bakes cakes and playing around with my blog a little too. I was inspired by Sarah Hartley to create a map of my bakes so far, which has really helped me to see which countries I am still yet to visit on my culinary challenge

I was over the moon when I got a notificiation to say that my blog had been linked to on another wordpress blog. Clicking the notification I went through to find that the wonderful Foodie Sarah, (Sarah Hartley) a journalist from the Guardian and the Notice community noticeboard website had wrote a piece about me and my challenge!! You can find her wonderful foodie blog here foodiesarah.wordpress.com

Sarah is also on twitter (@FoodieSarah) and is in the process of mapping out the foodie bloggers in the North of England, of which I am one. I recommend hopping over to her blog and checking out her map of bloggers. I read quite a few of these foodie blogs and it’s great to see how much is happening up here!

I baked a shed load of cakes this month for my Mam’s birthday, my friend’s house warming and my nephew’s christening. (Some photos of which are still to follow as the teddy bear sugar christeningcookies are still to be iced!) Most of the things I’ve been baking are new adaptations/improvisations of previous aroundtheworldin80bakes cakes. The Anzacs were particularly challenging as I ran out of coconut so I replaced this with ground almonds! I also ran out of plain flour so I used self raising instead. I feel a new recipe has been born. 🙂

Other baking experiments this week – Coconut Macaroons

Other baking experiments this week – Two Tone Chocolate and Almond Madeleines

Mountains of improvised Almond Anzacs

In amongst all this baking I’ve been doing a bit more running too in preparation for The Great North Run that I’m running for Oxfam in September. Only 3 months left to go I’ve even started running home after work, just to fit in a few more miles, with my new running haversack (which I broke after 2 runs!).

Early morning (6am!) running down by the Quayside taking in the Olympic Torch parade

all the lads and lasses wit all their smiling faces gannin along the Scotswood Road to see the Blaydon Races! (Pre torrential rain and river like running conditions)

The Blaydon Race was epic. It was the 15oth anniversary and the heavens opened to welcome us. It was like an endurance test running through a stream as the roads were flooded. I have never been so soaked in my life! But then again it made me run quicker (5o mins 40 secs to be exact) to finish which meant I was that little bit closer to getting home, and in a hot bath!

A good old bottle of brun ale – dedicated running!

Before today’s Alnwick 10k Trailrun – who knew what a trailrun entailed until today’s encounter with mud, uneven terrain and LOTS of hills!

And then my first ever ‘Trail Run’ which I hadn’t even realised what I had signed up for. This was one hell of an experience but it was so beautiful up in Northumberland, with the rolling hills and sunshine! Let’s hope my trainers dry out soon… and then for more international baking!

My new (first pair not purchased from the boys children’s dept) proper running trainers!

All of this running and baking means I’ve made very good use of my new favourite purchase…  a stove top Hello Kitty Espresso pot.

Hello Kitty Espresso pot

Thanks very much for reading! I’m off to check on my homemade (invented from the ingredients in the cupboard) rice pudding!