I’ve been earning some Dad and Uncle Brownie Points this week, with a little help from Wicked Uncle too. There’s also a super easy chocolate brownie recipe for you on the blog this week.
As well as being Dad to the three little urchins above, I’m also a proud uncle to four nieces and three nephews, which means a lot of call for birthday and Christmas present ideas. The people at the toy site Wicked Uncle got in touch recently and wanted me to give their website a go and test a few of their toys. Not going to say no to that now am I – made me feel like Tom Hanks in Big! In our house, the girls are pretty tuned in to toy marketing and reject the idea that some toys are ‘just for boys’ or ‘just for girls’. What’s good about the Wicked Uncle site is that you can search for toys by age group or toys by theme, which the girls liked, and there was a really interestingly curated variety of toys available. In the end, we went with food-related choices for all of them:
- For our eldest (aged nearly 8): a mini greenhouse, as she’s helping me get the vegetable patch ready this year and wants to garden her own section of it.
- For our middle daughter (aged 5): a flowerpot bread making kit, as she’s always asking to bake with me.
- For our youngest (aged 17 months): a cookie baking role play set, to try and stop her pulling everything out of my baking cupboard when she’s in the kitchen!
The cookie role play went down a storm, not just with our youngest, who got the hang of rolling out the cookies straight away (above). I think the elder two have played with it more this weekend than their little sister, which has meant my wife Sarah and I have pretend-eaten a lot of wooden cookies – thankfully they’re pretty low in calories!
The flower pot bread was a big hit with my middle daughter. She loves making cakes and biscuits with me and while she’s kneaded and shaped bread dough before, she’d never made it herself from scratch. I got a bit of a lump in my throat watching her knead, as she’s really picked up the technique after years of watching me in the kitchen and coming along to my baking demos. The highlight of this for her was the excitement of coming back to her flowerpots after the dough had proved and doubled in size – she couldn’t believe how quickly it had grown. With younger children, they don’t have a lot of patience waiting for plants to grow so this was a bit more instant for her.
She was so excited to have been able to make us a bread roll each and has already asked whether she can make more to have with our dinners throughout this week. The bread turned out well and I’m looking forward to working with her to suggest different flavours and herbs to put in our next batches.
We didn’t get a chance to play with the mini greenhouse yet this weekend, but our eldest is going to use it to try and earn her Gardener badge at Brownies (see above). Sarah’s recently become a Rainbow Guide leader and at her ‘new leader’ training yesterday she picked up a copy of the Brownie Guide Badge Book. Our eldest daughter has gone through it and marked all the badges that she wants to complete (24 so far) and it took me right back to being a Cub Scout and how excited I was earning all the badges I found a few years ago. Sarah and I have really happy memories of Guides and Scouts and I’m so pleased she’s been able to make time to volunteer. She works a nine-day fortnight so does Rainbows every two weeks on her day off and runs a rota for others to keep it open weekly. If you’re interested in volunteering for Guides or Scouts but can’t commit weekly, there are still lots of opportunities to get involved, see here and here.
It’s funny how that urge to earn badges never really goes away. Every time I work on a new skill it gives me a sense of satisfaction – I just wish you still got badges for doing new things as a grown up! For example, inspired by watching the Big Painting Challenge this year, I signed up to an art course that started recently. I’ve not had art lessons since school and while I’m totally out of my comfort zone, I’m absolutely loving it. This week I painted a portrait in oils (above) which I’ve never done before. It’s been great to have time set aside every week for this. I might still ask if they can make me an Artist badge to sew on my jumper at the end of the course!
One of the things I’d like to try and paint is the picture I took of my eldest daughter (above) a few weeks ago on our Owl Encounter. To my surprise, thousands of miles away, one of my Instagram followers in the US had the same idea and tagged me in on a painting she’d done of this picture below.
I can’t tell you how excited my daughter was to see this. She was really touched, as were we. With my series of the Great British Baking Show being on Netflix, I get such fantastic interaction from American fans of the show. Just this week I got a wedding invite from a couple of GBBS fans (unfortunately flights weren’t included!) and another viewer is kindly sending me some fishing flies he’s made for me. My Bake Off experience seems so long ago now but moments like this keep it very special for me.
As regular readers of my blog will know, the reason I’m sporting a beard these days is that I’d started growing it for my STIHL Timbersports day a couple of months ago. I wrote a guest blog for them about my experience here – it was such an awesome day (again, maybe I’ll ask them for a ‘Timbersports’ badge?) Unfortunately I didn’t make the national squad(!) but the day was really hard work and it reminded me I’d got a little out of shape. Training for next year’s Marathon with my fellow bakers couldn’t have come at a better time. Not only am I starting to feel healthier than I have in years, but it’s so much more motivating having other people to share the training ups and downs with.
Anyway, as I said at the start of this post, I’ve earned some brownie points this week, particularly through making the brownies above for my niece’s birthday party this afternoon. They’re so easy and delicious that I’m sharing the recipe here. Enjoy!
Chocolate & Marshmallow Brownies
- 250g unsalted butter
- 250g dark chocolate
- 120g plain flour
- 55g cocoa powder
- 4 large eggs
- 370g caster sugar
- 75g milk chocolate
- 75g white chocolate
- 10 large marshmallows
- Preheat the oven to 180oC / fan 160oC / gas mark 4 and line a medium-sized baking tray (mine is 30 x 20cm) with baking parchment
- Break up the dark chocolate and put in a saucepan with the butter. Heat until all the butter has melted, then take off the hob and use the residual heat to melt the dark chocolate – stirring until smooth
- Crack the eggs into a large bowl. Add the sugar and beat with an electric hand whisk until light coloured and foamy – about four to five minutes should do the trick
- Sift together the flour and cocoa powder and gently fold this into the egg/sugar mixture
- Pour in the melted chocolate and butte and gently fold this together
- Roughly chop the white and milk chocolate and cut the marshmallows into eighths. Fold all of this into the mixture
- Tip into the lined baking tray, smooth out and bake for 30-35 minutes. the just-baked brownies should have a slight ‘wobble’ when they come out of the oven
- Allow to cool completely (at least four hours) before cutting into squares and scoffing at a shamefully furious rate
I’ve got so much baking to do in the evenings this week for various commissions that I’m burying my head in the sand about it tonight. But keep an eye on my Instagram to see what I get up to as it’ll be pretty relentless all week. So until next weekend, Happy Baking!