Cutting yourself a slice of self-care

Last week we celebrated World Mental Health Day, and it was wonderful to see so many people sharing their experiences and encouraging others to talk. It certainly feels, at least to me, that gradually the stigma surrounding mental health is being broken. Its definitely seeing such compassion that helps me to lower my barriers-which I’m notoriously bad at doing- and speak about how I’m feeling. Its incredibly brave to talk to someone and to take that first step in getting yourself well again. After all, just like if you’d broken your leg, you’re unwell and need to recover- and it’s incredibly hard to do so alone.

I spent my World Mental Health Day baking some scrummy gluten-free millionaire’s shortbread. This is one of the ways I show myself some self-care. If you haven’t heard me talk about self-care then firstly I’m surprised, because I could and do talk about it until the cows come home. Basically its all about giving yourself a break. Sometimes our biggest bullies can be ourselves, but fun fact: we are all human, and the more we accept that about ourselves the happier we can be. So accept that humanness, and show yourself some positivity. The best part? Self-care is completely tailored to you. If you enjoy getting lost in a book, set aside some time to do so. Relax if you just need that time out- I find meditation really helps me. Push yourself! If there’s something you don’t particularly want to do but you know you’ll feel better if you just do it, push yourself to do so. It could be seeing friends you haven’t met up with in a while, or maybe the more boring stuff of getting the housework done, or doing that work you’ve been putting off. You’ll thank yourself later. Nothing is as scary as you make it, even if that anxiety is telling you it is.

But you know what, I don’t want to preach to you. I can’t say that I’ve been there in that dark place and I got through it. Sure I have done that in the past, been at my worst and fought back on top. Depression doesn’t have to be a constant thing; it can come in waves, peaks and troughs, it can lurk in the shadows and rear its ugly head whenever it pleases. So, I can’t say right now to you that I’ve been in a dark place and I’m okay now, because I’m not okay. Right now, I’m in that dark place, right in the rut of it. I can’t preach about self-care, because I regularly ignore it or lose sight of it, or even do the opposite of it: I self-criticize; I isolate myself; I break.

I’m trying to change that though, to break those bad habits and show myself the same compassion I’d show others in my condition. That’s why a couple of months ago I took my first step in doing so and got in touch with Time to Talk. Since then I’ve completed a three-week workshop aimed at learning more about your negative thoughts, behaviours and feelings. More than anything, being in that group setting has made me realise how important it is to be open. The people around you love you, and want you to be well, so don’t be afraid to tell them something you think might upset them. They will honestly be happier that you’re sharing it, and will understand its part of you getting yourself better.

Anyway, this is a baking blog and with that should be some baking! So if taking some time to bake or eating your well earned treats sounds right up your self-care street, then try my millionaire’s shortbread…

For the shortbread:


200g gluten-free plain flour

100g rice flour

100g granulated sugar

1/4 tsp fine salt

200g butter, cut into pieces

 

For the caramel:

200g granulated sugar

90g salted butter, room temperature and cut into 6 pieces

120ml heavy cream

1 tsp salt

 

For the topping:

200g dark chocolate

 

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark four, and grease a 20x20cm tin.

 

First, make the shortbread…

Put the flours into a bowl with the sugar and salt and mix well, then cut in the butter and rub together. Press to form a dough. Spread flour over a clean surface and roll out the dough until roughly the same size as the tin. Press into the tin, prick all over with a fork and bake for about 25-30 minutes, until golden and crisp. Allow to cool.

 

Then, the caramel…

Heat granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat resistant rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn. Once sugar is completely melted, immediately add the butter. Be careful in this step because the caramel will bubble rapidly when the butter is added. Stir the butter into the caramel until it is completely melted, about 2-3 minutes. A whisk helps if you find the butter is separating from the sugar. Very slowly, drizzle in the heavy cream while stirring. Since the heavy cream is colder than the caramel, the mixture will rapidly bubble and/or splatter when added. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. It will rise in the pan as it boils. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon of salt. Allow to cool down. Pour over the shortbread and smooth with a palette knife. Leave to set.

 

To finish, the topping…

Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water or in a microwave, and spread evenly over the set caramel. Leave until solid, then turn out and cut into squares.

 

The perfect treat with your cuppa tea!

 

Lastly for this week, I want to share with you some goals I’m keeping in mind as I continue to my journey to good mental health…

1) Continue being open and accept help from loved-ones

2) Continue exercising self-love

3) Push myself, without rushing myself back to health

 

Happy self-care! See you next time xoxo

 

 

 

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Oh (ginger) snap!

If you can cast your mind back to Week 2 of Great British Bake Off, you’ll remember some contestants triumphing while others crumbled over biscuit week. Usually I am very much in the latter camp, biscuits are not my forte. But as I said in my last post, this project is very much trying to break out of the habit of being a flake because, other than being a delightful choccy bar, flake-life isn’t for me. So this week, it was out with the flakes and time to battle with biscuits…

Despite my empty threats I would ‘boycott Bake Off’ after its switch to Channel 4, they were just that- empty threats. Week 2’s episode again did not disappoint. Sandi and Noel are still giving it a good old (viennese) whirl, the bakers are some of the best to have graced the tent with their wow-worthy showstoppers, and if at 71 I’m still shaking my stuff and sippin’ on cocktails like Flo, I’ll be a very happy woman indeed.

Now, there was NO way I was even going to attempt to compete with the board game showstopper- I mean how, HOW, did Steven create a whole chess board in that time? I genuinely need an explanation. So, signature bake it was, and I plumped for these gorgeous ginger creams- a favourite of my smart cookie of a mother who has recently opened her very own cafe on wheels (and doing one hell of a job!)

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Ingredients
225g self-raising flour
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 level tsp ground ginger
1 level tsp cinnamon
100g soft brown sugar
125g butter
100g golden syrup

For the filling
125g icing sugar
50g unsalted butter, softened but not melted
1 ball stem ginger, drained and finely chopped
1 tsp stem ginger syrup from the jar

Method
Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4. Line 2 baking trays with baking paper. Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, ground ginger and cinnamon. Stir in the sugar.
Heat the 125g butter and golden syrup in a pan until melted and just warm, but not hot. Add to the flour. Stir to make a stiff dough.
Put heaped teaspoons of the mixture on the baking trays, leaving plenty of space for them to spread out. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Leave the biscuits to cool on the tray for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

 At this point… If the biscuits aren’t as uniform as you’d like, use a cookie cutter (or I used the rim of a glass) to make them more circular
Just before serving, mix the icing sugar with the unsalted butter and the stem ginger and syrup. Use to sandwich the biscuits together. Leave to set.

Or… dip half in melted dark chocolate- leave to set.

The reviews I’ve heard from mother hen is that the biscuits are selling like hot cakes (well, biscuits) at the cafe. So, although admittedly I approached biscuit week gingerly, it wasn’t the battle I expected at all. Instead, with the help of a super-simple Asda recipe, it was really quite…

nice biccy

 

For news and updates on the cafe, visit Deli In The Garden on Instagram, Twitter and soon Facebook!!

See you next week xoxo

Recipe: Asda Good Living

Instagram: MegManganaro

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Keep on rollin’

I’m back!

Again, it’s been a while (sorry). So, full disclosure: I am a flake. I’m worse than a 99 on your Mr Whippy- forever putting my mind to something and not seeing it through or making plans to do something and cancelling later. We’re all guilty of doing this, but honestly I am almost criminally liable of it (#LawBants)

So a bit of a background- and a big step to admit- but I’ve suffered with depression since my diagnosis at 16, and more recently struggled with anxiety too. It’s majorly affected my life in a manner of ways- socially, academically- and generally can make me feel like I’ve lost my ‘Meg-ness’. With massive help from family and my pals, I’m currently in the process of pulling myself back together from yet another knock, and that’s where this blog and baking come in (yes, I promise I’ll talk about cake soon) …

I’m a big fan of The Blurt Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to helping those with depression. If you haven’t heard of it, I urge you to check it out whether on Instagram, Twitter or at blurtitout.org. There’s loads of articles and doodles that help to learn more about depression, helpful techniques and just make you feel a little more ‘human’. A fabulous project they’ve launched is all about self care, basically nurturing yourself and showing yourself some well-deserved kindness. So, as part of my very own Mango-tailored self care I am taking to baking at least once a week. I’ve always thought of baking as a type of therapy, something that truly relaxes me. I introduce the first of my Bake Off extravaganza, or if you like a hashtag, #MegsGBBOChallenge…

WEEK 1:

Chocolate Mini Rolls

Yes, for my first bake I attempted the technical challenge, perhaps not the most relaxing of bakes… But, despite the mess and fiddliness, I was super happy with the turn-out. As one of my brother’s childhood favourites, we always had mini rolls in the house while growing up, so to make them myself was fab- and they actually tasted like the real deal! Absolutely scrummy, even if a little ‘rustic’ in their aesthetic- but hey, who likes perfect?!

 

Makes 12

Ingredients:

60g cocoa powder

30g butter, melted, plus extra for greasing

1 tsp vanilla extract

4 tbsp boiling water

6 large eggs, separated

150g caster sugar

 

For the filling

150g butter, softened

300g icing sugar

1 tsp peppermint essence

 

To finish

200g plain chocolate, 70% cocoa solids

200g milk chocolate

100g white chocolate

 

Step 1 – Heat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Grease two, 30cm x 20cm Swiss roll tins with butter. Line the base of each tin with a piece of greased greaseproof paper.

Step 2 – Sieve the cocoa powder into a small bowl, add the butter, vanilla extract and boiling water and mix together. Set aside.

Step 3 – Whisk 100g of the caster sugar and egg yolks together until light, thick and fluffy. Add the chocolate mixture and whisk until combined.

Step 4 – In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Add the remaining 50g of caster sugar and whisk until the sugar has dissolved.

Step 5 – Beat one third of the meringue mixture into the chocolate mixture to loosen the mix. Using a large metal spoon, fold the remaining egg whites through the mixture.

Step 6 – Divide the mixture between the two lined tins and level out. Bake for 12 – 18 minutes.

Step 7 – Remove from the oven and place on cooling racks. Cover the tins with a damp tea towel and leave to cool completely.

Step 8 – For the filling, beat the butter until soft and gradually beat in the icing sugar. Add the peppermint essence and continue beating until white, soft and fluffy.

Step 9 – Turn the cakes upside down onto 2 sheets of greaseproof paper and peel off the baking paper. Turn the cakes so that the short end is facing you. Score a line 4cm in on both short ends of both cakes. Spread the peppermint cream over the top and towards the edges.

Step 10 – Starting from the front short edge, roll up the cake, stopping in the middle. Repeat the same from the back until both rolls meet in the middle. Cut down the centre between the rolls.

Step 11 – Repeat with the remaining sponge, so you have four rolls. Trim the ends and cut each roll into three so you end up with twelve mini rolls.

Step 12 – Place the rolls, seam side down on a cooling rack and chill in the fridge for 15 minutes to firm up.

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Step 13 – To finish, melt the plain and milk chocolate together in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Place the cooling rack over a baking tin (to catch the chocolate) and dip, spread or pour the chocolate over each mini roll to coat. Leave to set.

My tip: dip each end of the roll into the chocolate before placing back onto the cooling rack and spooning over the chocolate to coat the top and sides

Step 14 – Melt the white chocolate in a bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water. Spoon into a small disposable piping bag and snip off the end. Pipe fine stripes across the width of the mini rolls, then leave to set.

… And how better to taste-test your bake, than while watching #GBBO itself!

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Happy baking!

See you next week xoxo

Images from my Instagram (megmanganaro)

Recipe ‘Prue’s Chocolate Mini Rolls’ 

 

 

 

 

 

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Sticky Toffee Cupcakes

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My brother invited me over for dinner at his new house this week and I thought… how better to celebrate the occasion but with cake?! So I did what I do best- put my apron on and got baking. He adores a good sticky toffee pudding, so I had a search and came across the perfect little recipe. Cupcakes with a soft, rich sponge and a sweet caramel icing. Just, yum.

The comments I received for them were equally as fab. On the back of these little beauties, my best friend is rooting for me to enter Bake Off 2016, and my toughest critic- the brother- praised them as the best cakes I’ve ever made him. The only negative I had was that I didn’t give him enough!! Not too bad if I say so myself 🙂 If you fancy a good ego boost, I suggest you make a batch!

Makes approx. 16 cupcakes

180g pitted and chopped dates

180ml boiling water

80g unsalted butter, softened

150g soft light brown sugar

2 eggs

180g plain flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1/4 tsp salt

1tsp vanilla extract

Put the chopped dates in a bowl and cover them with the boiling water. Set them aside to soak for about 30 mins while you get on with making the cupcake batter.

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees and line a muffin tin (or two) with cases.

Beat the butter and sugar together with an electric mixer until soft and fluffy.

Break the eggs in one at a time and beat until they’re incorporated well.

Sift the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt) into the butter and sugar mixture in a few batches, beating after each addition until you’re left with a smooth batter.

Finally add the vanilla extract to the date mixture and add the whole lot to the cake batter.

Bake for 18-20 minutes.

Once they’re cooked, leave them to cool before icing.

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80g unsalted butter, softened

250g icing sugar

25ml milk

50g tinned caramel or dulce de leche

Using an electric mixer, mix together the icing sugar and butter until it has the texture of sand.

Gradually add the milk and whack up the speed until you have a light creamy butter icing.

Stir in the caramel.

Top your cupcakes with the icing and decorate as desired.

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Recipe from: Afternoon Tease

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Homemade Raspberry Marshmallows

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Initially I was quite scared to attempt marshmallows. After reading a few recipes I was convinced it would be quite a tricky process but it’s actually one of the quickest things I’ve made recently. The prep only took half an hour and the rest is a doddle- just leave to set for a few hours! Don’t be scared about boiling the sugar. Trust me, I was and there’s really nothing to worry about if you have a good sugar thermometer. I definitely would say that a free-standing mixer is best for this, but I used a bog-standard electric whisk and it worked out fine- just very very sticky!

The result? Pure YUMMINESS! They had a lovely taste of raspberry and look so sweet! Perfect as a  cute homemade gift! But by far the best part… Having no dairy or gluten ingredients, they are totally fine for the FODMAP diet 🙂

Makes approximately 40 marshmallows
Ingredients

8 sheets of fine leaf gelatine
2 egg whites
500g granulated sugar
250ml cold water
150g fresh raspberries, washed and drained
You will also need,
Baking tin, either 23cm x 30cm (Brownie tin) or a square 20cm tin
vegetable oil, for greasing the tin
2 tbsp. cornflour mixed with 2 tbsp. of icing sugar
Instructions

Prepare the tin by greasing all over. Add a heaped tablespoon of the cornflour and icing sugar mixture and tap all around tin ensuring that everywhere is sufficiently covered. Discard the excess mixture.
Put the cold water and sugar into a saucepan and over a low heat dissolve the sugar. Stand a sugar thermometer in the pan and increase to a medium heat. Bring to the boil and allow to bubble away. The temperature of the sugar mixture needs to reach 122 degrees C or reach what is known as the ‘firm/hard ball’ stage. This should take about 15 minutes. If you do not have a sugar thermometer, test the mixture by dropping a little onto a saucer. Its should be firm and hold its shape.
Whilst the sugar is bubbling. Place the gelatine leaves into a bowl of cold water, one at a time to prevent them sticking.
Also, puree the raspberries by placing in a blender. Put the puree through a sieve so removing the pips from the puree. Set aside.
In a free standing mixer, beating the egg whites until stiff.
Once the sugar has reached the correct temperature, with the mixer on a low speed, slowly add the hot mixture to the egg whites, continually beating. Increase the speed of the mixer and add the gelatine leaves, squeezed, one at a time.
Allow the mixer to continue to beat for about 10 minutes until the mixture has cooled. Add the raspberry puree (or vanilla extract if making Classic Vanilla flavour) and mix until incorporated.
Tip the mixture into the prepared tin and carefully spread throughout the tin. Sieve some of the remaining cornflour/icing sugar mix over the marshmallow. Allow to set, in a cool place but not a refrigerator, for approximately 4-6 hours.
Once set, cut the marshmallow to size. Tip; slightly oil a sharp knife and continually wipe with a piece of kitchen towel with some light oil on it.
Dip the sticky edges in the remaining cornflour/icing sugar mix and store in an airtight container.

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Recipe from: The Contented Baker

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GBBO Week 2: Biscuit Box Showstopper

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Gluten-free Lemon & Elderflower Shortbread Box with Raspberry and White Chocolate Biscuits

First things first, I don’t particularly thrive at biscuits. I like baking cake- I know cake, I can do cake. Biscuits, however, have never really been my bag… So, with it being biscuit week in the tent and having yet to have participated in the Great Blogger’s Bake Off 2015, I plucked up the courage and decided to face my biscuit fear. The best way to do that… The showstopper challenge of course! It took a lot of effort and patience- having a few mishaps along the way- but I did it! (And I have to say I’m pretty chuffed with it too!). To see other fab recipes and entries, visit: www.mummymishaps.co.uk 

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So, starting with the box…

Lemon & Elderflower Shortbread

400g Gluten-free Plain Flour

150g Caster Sugar

150g Butter (Cubed)

2 tbsp Golden Syrup

100ml Elderflower Cordial

Rind of 1 Lemon

A few (Approx 5) Boiled Sweets

Pre heat the oven to 220°C.
Sift the flour into a bowl and add the cubed butter. Use your fingertips to rub the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs.
Heat the elderflower cordial, lemon rind and golden syrup in a small pan. Pour into the flour and butter mixture and add the sugar.
Continue to mix all the ingredients together with your hands until it comes together in a ball.
Remove and divide into two balls and place on a floured surface.

Butter a large baking tray.

Roll out the doughs one at a time and using a template/ruler, cut out the 4 walls (W 12cm x H 6 cm) and a lid (W 12cm x H 12 cm) of the box

With remaining dough, cut shapes to decorate the box (I used heart cookie cutters!)

Place all pieces on baking trays, and cut a 8cm x 8cm window from the lid

Cook for 8-10 minutes, until golden on the edges.

Whilst cooking, place the boiled sweets in a pestle and mortar or into a food processor and crush until a rough sand texture

With about 3- 4 minutes left on the timer, sprinkle the crushed sweets into the hole in the lid to make a stained glass effect

Cool on a rack before decorating.

Royal Icing

1 egg white

225g Icing Sugar

1 tsp Lemon Juice

For the icing, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl until frothy.

Using a wooden spoon or a hand-held electric mixer on slow speed, add the icing sugar a tablespoonful at a time.

Stir in the lemon juice and beat the icing until it is very stiff and white and stands up in peaks.

Cover the surface with a damp cloth if not using immediately.

Using a piping bag or palette knife, pipe or spread icing over each part of the box and decorate as desired (I used freeze dried raspberries and the extra heart biscuits!)

Pipe a line of icing onto the display board and stick the first biscuit wall to the board (I struggled to get the biscuit to stay upright so used mini cocktail sticks to secure it while the icing set)

Repeat this for the other sides of the box, piping icing along the wall edge in order to join the sides together

Place the lid on the top and ice any plain areas to give the box a neat effect

Leave to set for at least 4 hours

Tip: Leftover royal icing can be kept in the fridge for up to a week in a glass/stainless steel bowl and cling fling placed directly on top of the icing

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Raspberry & White Chocolate Biscuits

250g Gluten-free Plain Flour
200g Butter, cut into small cubes

100g Icing Sugar
Pinch of Salt
2 Egg Yolks

60g White Chocolate

Raspberry Jam (Shop bought or home-made)

Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
Place the flour, butter, icing sugar and salt into a bowl. Using your fingertips, rub the ingredients together until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Add the egg yolks and mix until a dough forms. Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and roll out to a thickness of about 0.5cm/¼in. Cut out shapes using a 4cm/1½in cutter.

Place on a lined baking tray and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until light golden-brown and crisp. Remove and transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Whilst the biscuits cool, melt the white chocolate in a heatproof bowl over boiling water

When the biscuits and the chocolate have cooled, spread a layer of white chocolate and a layer of jam onto half of the biscuits. Top with the other half of the biscuits and allow the filling to set (you can place them in the fridge to speed this up if you wish)

Decorate as desired

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If you can resist eating it all, place your jammy-choccy biscuits into your box and let people marvel at your creation! ENJOY 🙂

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Mini Cheeseburger Cakes

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This was such a fun bake. It was my flatmate’s birthday and, as you can guess, he liked burgers. As students, it was only right that a bottle of vodka was involved in the making of these cakes… But just as a make-shift rolling pin to roll out the fondant icing ‘cheese’! As well as the ‘cheese’, there’s a vanilla sponge ‘bun’, a chocolate brownie ‘burger’ and vanilla buttercream ‘mayo’. The great part about this is that you can make all the different elements up as and when you want. I actually made the brownies the night before and stored them in an airtight container before making the other elements the next day and assembling. They definitely looked the part, and went down a treat too!

Vanilla Sponge Bun

This is just your normal vanilla cupcake, which I then cut in half to make into a bun.

110g/4oz butter or margarine, softened at room temperature
110g/4oz caster sugar
2 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp vanilla extract
110g/4oz self-raising flour, sifted

Preheat oven to180C/350F/Gas 4 and grease a 12-hole cupcake tray. Grease it well so that the cake won’t stick!

Place all ingredients in a bowl and mix until combined.

Spoon the mixture into each of the holes of the tray and bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until golden-brown on top and a skewer inserted into one of the cakes comes out clean. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, then remove from the tin and cool on a wire rack.

Once cooled, cut each of the cupcakes in half to create the mini buns!

Brownie Burger

For this part of the bake I made a tray bake of brownies and, once cooled, simply used a small cookie cutter to create burgers 🙂

275g (10oz) butter, softened

375g (13oz) caster sugar

4 large eggs

75g (3oz) cocoa powder

100g (4oz) self-raising flour

100g (4oz) plain chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 160°C/gas 4. Cut a rectangle of non-stick baking parchment to fit the base and sides of the tin. Grease the tin and then line it with the paper, pushing it neatly into the corners.

Measure all the ingredients into a large bowl and mix with a hand-held electric mixer until evenly blended.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, scraping the sides of the bowl with a plastic spatula to remove all of it. Spread the mixture gently to the corners of the tin and level the surface with the back of the spatula.

Bake for 40–45 minutes, until the brownies have a crusty top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.Cover loosely with foil for the last 10 minutes if the mixture is browning too much.

Allow to cool in the tin. Once cooled, turn out the brownies and cut into 12 small rounds (or ‘burgers’!) using a cookie cutter.

Vanilla Buttercream Mayo

175 g butter (at room temperature), cut into pieces
1/2 tbsp vanilla extract
2-3 tbsp milk
350 g icing sugar, sifted

Put the butter, vanilla extract, two tablespoons of the milk, and half the icing sugar in a large bowl and beat until smooth. Beat in the remaining icing sugar, and pour in the rest of the milk if needed to make the icing the right consistency.

Lastly, assembling the burgers…

Spread a small amount of icing on each of the vanilla sponge halves

Place a brownie burger on half of the vanilla sponges

Place a small dot of buttercream on top of the brownie (this will be to hold the fondant ‘cheese’ in place)

Roll out the yellow fondant icing (supermarket bought!) and cut into small squares to resemble slices of cheese. Place one on top of each of the brownies

Place the rest of the sponge halves on top, to create your burger!

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