Just over two weeks with our littlest loaf and we’re slowly starting to find our feet as a family of four. In some ways, not much has changed – it’s funny how life with a toddler simply goes on with mealtimes and outings, stories to tell and bottoms to wipe – and in others, nothing will ever be the same again. We have a whole new person to care for and play with, get to know and fall in love with.
When I have a spare moment to think (mostly nursing in the middle of the night, there’s currently not a lot of daytime peace), I’ve been thinking a lot about these two humans who grew inside me. I’ve marvelled before at the capacity of the human heart to expand and continue to do so: this love I feel for my family is infinite and ever-growing. But my time? My ability to devote undivided attention to each child? It’s compromised. I don’t mean that to sound depressing or defeatist but the other night I had a little weep. On days when Luke isn’t around, my little shadow and I have grown into a gang of three which is wonderful and perfect and something I wouldn’t change for the world, but definitely different. Nino has been so incredibly brilliant with his little sister – and I know it’s all part of life, and good for him to learn to share – but on occasion I’ll catch his eye when I’m changing yet another nappy or latched into another cluster feed and I know there’s a part of me he misses. Nobody said this parenting gig was easy. Continue reading →
Before he arrived I posted a letter of sorts to your big brother in this space. I’ve been writing something similar to you for weeks now in my head, but finding the time to get it down has been trickier second time round – if you’re ever lucky enough to be a mummy yourself (assuming that you want to be), I think you’ll understand what I mean.
When Nino was diagnosed with TGA at his twenty week scan, I promised myself I’d never ask for anything more if we could just deliver this fragile first baby into the world safe and well. But once he made me a mummy and grew and got stronger, I realized how much I adore this gig, how brilliant a big brother he could be and how while one was just perfect, two little people in our lives would be bliss. It’s hard to imagine my heart expanding any more, but I just know that it has and will. You are already so loved and so wanted and we just can’t wait to meet you.
First time around, there were so many unknowns – both what would happen when Nino was born, surgery and all that scary stuff, but also how we would be as parents. This time I feel a little more prepared, but two? Who knows how that’s going to go. Regardless of the mayhem that will undoubtedly ensue, know that your big brother is already in love with you, that he places his hand on my belly to feel you hiccup and tries to tickle you awake. He wants to teach you how to smile and talk and walk and has already requested the role of chief nappy changer. Fine by me. My ever-expanding belly means there’s no longer space to sit on my lap for stories so I’m sure he’ll be vying with you for that spot when you pop out, but I think you already know all this, you’ve been listening in on us for nine months.
Your daddy (and many a relative) thinks you’re going to be dark like me. I’m predicting a curly blonde menace to match the boys you’re joining, but it couldn’t matter less – it’s all part of the excitement of meeting you. Either way, I feel like you’re going to be a happy soul, feisty and with maybe just a little ferocious streak like your mum.
The doctors have given a due date of this Friday, but I’m pretty sure you’ll just come when you’re ready. We’ll be waiting, baby girl, to welcome you into the world: already utterly in love and ready and for you to make our family complete. Until then, this shortbread, as if life wasn’t sweet enough already 🙂
Millionaire's shortbread with an added peanut twist. The addition of salty peanut butter to the chocolate topping of these addictive little squares balances the sweetness beautifully. The perfect tea time treat.
Author: Kate Doran
Recipe type: Baking
Serves: 16 squares
For the shortbread
250g unsalted butter, softened
250g plain flour, sifted
50g corn flour, sifted
100g golden caster sugar
pinch sea salt
For the caramel
140g light brown muscovado sugar
397 tin condensed milk
140g unsalted butter
½ tsp salt
For the chocolate topping
200g dark chocolate
50g milk chocolate
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter
To make the shortbread, lightly grease a 20cm square tin and line with baking parchment. Blitz all the ingredients in a food processor, making sure not to overwork, then press into the tin. Prick with a fork then chill for one hour, before baking at 180C/160C fan for 35 - 40 minutes, until pale gold. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.
To make the caramel, melt all the ingredients in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. Simmer, stirring regularly, for 5 - 6 minutes until thickened then pour over the shortbread base. Refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.
To make the topping, melt the dark chocolate then pour over the caramel. Melt the milk chocolate and peanut butter together, then drizzle over the top. Refrigerate for a further hour until set then cut into squares.
Will keep for several days in an airtight container.
Before I had Nino, it used to annoy me when people told me that I wouldn’t understand a particular something or story until I was a parent. It sounds so patronising, so exclusive, that this club you’re not yet a member of has this deeper understanding of a situation that your single self can’t yet comprehend. My mum would say the same thing with books of hers I’d borrow – you’ll appreciate it more when you’re older, as a mother – which I’d resolutely ignore, assuming my teenage self to have all the emotional capacity (surely more?) of a grown up adult. But the thing about those parents, my mum? They’re right. Continue reading →
I’m blaming the succession* of crumble recipes on this blog for the arrival of autumn and a strong urge to cosy up warm with comfort food. The dish itself does the job for a dinner party or even as a single serving. However, I’m powerless to resist topping a classic crumble with a scoop of ice cream, so in the interests of some semblance of health, I’ve been making these ‘breakfast’ style baked goods (and then eating them for dessert).
*Succession meaning two in as many weeks which, when you live with one other person, is a fair amount of crumbly goods to be getting through.Continue reading →
I’m not much of a breakfast muffin person – it’s hard to sway me from my standard fare of toast with avocado or eggs, bircher muesli or, as the autumn draws in, a bowl of creamy porridge with yoghurt and fruit – but if you are, these muffins would be just perfect. I’ve been eating them at tea time or after dinner, the buttery crumble topping giving them just enough decadence to stand in for dessert. Essentially I’m saying this is an all day sort of a muffin, a necessary addition to your baking knowledge whatever the hour you decide to indulge. Continue reading →
Peaches rarely make their way into my baking. Fruit salads and ice creams or simply eaten whole over the sink, juices spilling down my chin, are all regular occurrences, but subjecting a peach to heat takes a bit more planning. If the fruit is too perfect, it disappears from its brown paper bag before I can even think about cooking; too soft and it won’t withstand the oven’s heat. But every so often I find a contender (or two), and on this occasion a pair of not-quite-perfect peaches made it into these simple little bun cakes. Continue reading →
With their fiery flavour and tooth-breaking crunch, ginger nuts – sometimes known as ‘snaps’ – regularly come top of ‘dunkability’ experiments. If you don’t have a cup of tea to hand but prefer something softer, a shop-bought ginger nut can be gently warmed in the oven or microwave. Just be careful with the timings or you’ll end up with incinerated biscuits, a wailing fire alarm and an angry university warden (I’m speaking from experience). Continue reading →
Lightly spiced chocolate cardamom cake with white chocolate rose buttercream
One of my all-time favourite photos comes from a book of cakes. But it’s not just any old food photograph. This is a picture of my big brother as a toddler – all beaming smiles and golden curls – sitting in front of a giant drum-shaped birthday cake, two batons clutched in his hands. The photo was taken for a book written by one of my mum’s friends, Cakes for Kids, and provides the perfect snapshot of what baking and birthday cakes are – in my mind – all about; the pleasure of creating something to share with others, something that will bring joy long after plates are licked clean and memories are all that remain. The look of glee on my brother’s face says it all. Continue reading →
Creamy nutella, crunchy wafer and toasted hazelnut enrobed in a cloak of milk chocolate
I’m not sure how many of you are going to read this post in full. In my experience, baking blogs are often an exercise in unashamed food pornography, and I’ve pretty much provided you with the money-shot right here. In fact, I can already picture people scrolling straight down to the recipe and racing off to grab a jar of Nutella from the kitchen cupboard so they can get started straight away.
You know what? I wouldn’t blame them. This recipe really is that good 😉 Continue reading →
When I was young, an old lady at the bottom of our garden used to bring us brownies. Not literally, of course – she lived on the next street along and her house backed onto ours – but I used to love the silly image this reference conjured up; a little old lady tucked away amongst the shrubs and fairies, happily baking brownies somewhere between the garden shed and the compost heap.
This neighbour of ours lived alone – her kids had worked abroad, eventually settling in the States – and every so often she’d come round to babysit, armed with a plate of dark, chewy brownies. I don’t know if it was something to do with the seeming exoticism of her far flung family, but I always associated these treats with America. I knew they were brownies, but their crisp crust and chewy texture felt a far cry from the cakier, fudgey version I sometimes made with my Mum. Continue reading →