I longed to be a traditional stay-at-home-mum … now my dream has come true

This week I was fortunate enough to be featured in the Southend Echo.  Fancy a read of the article?  Click here!. Article by By Louise Howeson.  @EchoLouHoweson  Professional photographs by Magdalena Mahdy at Love That Smile Photography.  @magdalenamahdy

Paul Hollywood’s easy white bread

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The History

Now, Paul Hollywood refers to his bread as a Cob which is apparently a term used in the Midlands, likely due to the resemblance to a Cobblestone!  I couldn’t really find much about the history of the Cob loaf.  So I looked into the history of bread . . .

Now, you can imagine, a lot came up about that.  And to be honest, I’ll be here all day if I went into that much detail about it.  But if you’re really that interested, I have found the most amazing website which details the history of bread from the present, all the way back to 8000 BC.  So check out www.bakersfederation.org.uk – it’s rather impressive!


My Experience

I thoroughly enjoyed making this bread.  It was my first time making bread like this.  I found it, almost therapeutic. 

I loved watching the dough rise.  I loved the kneading.  I loved the smell of it baking.

And it was so easy.  AND CHEAP!!! A loaf this big would probably cost you £1.50 or so in the supermarket, but it cost me pennies to make.

I highly recommend making this loaf.  You can’t go wrong.  And your family will be so impressed.

To aid the ease, especially if you’re a bread baking novice like me, check out Paul Hollywood’s how to video here.

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The Recipe

Over 2 hours preparation time

30 mins to 1 hour cooking time

Makes 1 loaf


  • 500g/1lb 1oz strong white bread flour, plus a little extra flour for finishing
  • 40g/1½oz soft butter
  • 12g/2 sachets fast-action dried yeast
  • 2 tsp salt
  • about 300ml/10¾fl oz tepid water (warm not cold – about body temperature)
  • a little olive or sunflower oil

Preparation method

  1. Put the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the butter. Add the yeast at one side of the bowl and add the salt at the other, otherwise the salt will kill the yeast. Stir all the ingredients with a spoon to combine.
  2. Add half of the water and turn the mixture round with your fingers. Continue to add water a little at a time, combining well, until you’ve picked up all of the flour from the sides of the bowl. You may not need to add all of the water, or you may need to add a little more – you want a dough that is well combined and soft, but not sticky or soggy. Mix with your fingers to make sure all of the ingredients are combined and use the mixture to clean the inside of the bowl. Keep going until the mixture forms a rough dough.
  3. Use about a teaspoon of oil to lightly grease a clean work surface (using oil instead of flour will keep the texture of the dough consistent). Turn out your dough onto the greased work surface (make sure you have plenty of space).
  4. Fold the far edge of the dough into the middle of the dough, then turn the dough by 45 degrees and repeat. Do this several times until the dough is very lightly coated all over in olive oil.
  5. Now use your hands to knead the dough: push the dough out in one direction with the heel of your hand, then fold it back on itself. Turn the dough by 90 degrees and repeat. Kneading in this way stretches the gluten and makes the dough elastic. Do this for about 4 or 5 minutes until the dough is smooth and stretchy. Work quickly so that the mixture doesn’t stick to your hands – if it does get too sticky you can add a little flour to your hands.
  6. Clean and lightly oil your mixing bowl and put the dough back into it. Cover with a damp tea towel or lightly oiled cling film and set it aside to prove. This gives the yeast time to work: the dough should double in size. This should take around one hour, but will vary depending on the temperature of your room (don’t put the bowl in a hot place or the yeast will work too quickly).
  7. Line a baking tray with baking or silicone paper (not greaseproof).
  8. Once the dough has doubled in size scrape it out of the bowl to shape it. The texture should be bouncy and shiny. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knock it back by kneading it firmly to ‘knock’ out the air. Use your hand to roll the dough up, then turn by 45 degrees and roll it up again. Repeat several times. Gently turn and smooth the dough into a round loaf shape.
  9. Place the loaf onto the lined baking tray, cover with a tea towel or lightly oiled cling film and leave to prove until it’s doubled in size. This will take about an hour, but may be quicker or slower depending on how warm your kitchen is.
  10. Preheat the oven to 220C (200C fan assisted)/425F/Gas 7. Put an old, empty roasting tin into the bottom of the oven.
  11. After an hour the loaf should have proved (risen again). Sprinkle some flour on top and very gently rub it in. Use a large, sharp knife to make shallow cuts (about 1cm/½in deep) across the top of the loaf to create a diamond pattern.
  12. Put the loaf (on its baking tray) into the middle of the oven. Pour cold water into the empty roasting tray at the bottom of the oven just before you shut the door – this creates steam which helps the loaf develop a crisp and shiny crust.
  13. Bake the loaf for about 30 minutes.
  14. The loaf is cooked when it’s risen and golden. To check, take it out of the oven and tap it gently underneath – it should sound hollow. Turn onto a wire rack to cool.

Recipe courtesy of bbc

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The Taste

Although it had the hollow knocking sound when I took it out of the oven, and although it came out crusty, it did go soft, and I think it was under baked.  I think a bit longer would have made it perfect.

My only other complaint is that, for me, it was much too salty.  So I would recommend only 1tsp of salt.

Other than that, my family were impressed with my first effort a t cob.  I think it looks rather lovely really . . .

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Hubby and I have just returned from a tantalising week in Northumberland.

I say tantalising, as I can honestly say it tantalised our eyes, our taste buds, our sense of smell.  It’s a really delightful county.

I probably shouldn’t say this, as I don’t think I want anyone to know how lovely it is.  Not that many people ready my blog, but I don’t want it to be invaded with 1000s of tourists.  But if you haven’t been.  You should.  It’s a perfect spot for a break in the UK this summer.

corbridgeI cannot take any credit for these photos.  I stupidly didn’t take during my. 

These delightful images are from http://annarack.blogspot.co.uk/2013/01/corbridge.html

Check out her fabulous blog and review on her own visit

We stayed with Andy’s sister, in Corbridge.  Corbridge is a quintessentially English village in the heart of the Tyne Valley.  An ideal base I you’re exploring the area and a delightful spot to potter around. Full of stone cottages, pubs, quaint cafés and lots of lovely shops selling everything from art to antiques to kitchenware.

One of my favourite shops in Corbridge is RE.  Short for Re-Found Objects (www.re-foundobjects.com).  They have an amazing collection of . . . well, everything.  From plates with skulls, to rusty numbers for your front door, to cake stands, to beautiful ribbons.  It’s an eclectic mix of homeware, but you’ll be sure to find something that catches your eye.

So.  Why were we in Northumberland.  Well, Hubby is trying to do the dirty on me and persuade me to move.  To leave my beloved Leigh-on-Sea and jack it all in for the Northern Country air.  Well, I must say I’m tempted.  More than tempted actually.  As much as I love Essex, it’s my home after all, I do worry about bringing up a family in a town/county that is slowly becoming overcrowded, and more or less an extension of London.  Northumberland does have it advantages.  No traffic.  More sheep than people.  Great schools.  The wild outdoors.  Birdsong like you never heard before.  A national park.  Stars.  It also has it downs.  Lack of Shabby Chic shops.  Lack of alfresco dining/cafe culture.  The Weather!  Hmmm . . . I need to ponder on this some more.

In the meantime, I welcome you to put your case forward.  Should I stay or should I go?

Image by Ian Twoputts Brodie‎. Taken from Facebook Northumberland page. Location: near Bothal

Image by Ian Twoputts Brodie‎. Taken from Facebook Northumberland page. Location: near Bothal

I justI just wanted to promote this beautiful blog post. It’s still February, so, still the month of Romance and Love. Please visit this page for a wonderful story of unfading love and commitment between husband and wife. Beyond admirable. Thank you for sharing Inna.

From Russia With Love

Love tyrannizes all the ages; but youthful, virgin hearts derive a blessing from its blasts and rages, like fields in spring when storms arrive. (Pushkin’s poem, Eugene Onegin)

December. 1825. Saint Petersburg. Imperial Russia. Young noblemen united in an attempt to release their motherland from the chains of autocratic oppression. There were hundreds of them, inspired by the constitutional governments of Western Europe. Members of the aristocracy, they were the first to rebel and attempt to overthrow the absolutist regime of the Tsar. However unfortunate for them, their uprising was a failure. They were condemned as criminals of the state. Five of them hanged, roughly a couple thousands incarcerated. More than a hundred sent into exile, sentenced to thirty years of hard labor in the mines of Siberia. They became known as the Decembrists.

It’s not the giant trees, nor the deathly stillness that constitutes its power and enchantment; rather…

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It’s pancake day. So here’s my favourite pancake recipe. Cheesy and naughty. Enjoy


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This pancake recipe is now a family tradition every Shrove Tuesday, followed by the normal lemon and sugar version for pudding – quite a lot of food for a Tuesday night, but we love an excuse to be over indulgent.  Plus, I must warn you, it’s not cheap to make – the cheese required is expensive, but it tastes fabulous – for a treat, it’s so worth it (it’s only once a year after all!)

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So, if you fancy joining us for a cheesy delicious feast, this is how to do it.  It serves 4.  As Tuesday night is a work night for most of us, you can make the pancakes in advance and freeze them.  Just layer the pancakes between sheets of baking paper, wrap in cling film and foil.  You can do this up to a couple of months in advance.

This recipe serves 4.  And takes 35…

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I thought people might find this link from business.stichcraftcreate.co.uk of use if you’re looking to sell your own crafty work.

“When it comes to setting prices for your handmade items and taking them off to a craft fair or listing them for sale on online marketplace sites like Etsy, Folksy, MISI or Artfire, it can be difficult to know how to make the price compelling for the customer, but also worthwhile for you, considering the investment of time and materials you have put in. And once you have set your prices, what are the different options available to you for selling crafts? In this FREE eBook you will find a wealth of great advice on pricing strategy and an introduction to setting up your own website, you own Etsy shop and a look at how to sell through online consignment shops, bricks-and-mortar shops and at craft fairs and shows.”