Tag: simple

The final sprint

Some years (every year) I have grand plans for home made gifts and decorations at Christmas. Rarely does this materialise in the lovely relaxed and whimsical way it looks in my head. Generally I end up covered in the contents of my baking cupboard feeling totally harassed by the number of hampers I’ve decided to make.

If you’re anything like me, or if you’re completely handmade/craft-phobic in the first place, this one is for you. Three super quick festive crafts to brighten up the house and fill up stockings at the last minute. You don’t need an ounce of artistic/baking ability for any of these. So no excuses.

#1: Cute Christmas bunting


You will need

String (I got this two colour spool from Tiger for £1)

Christmassy washi-tape


Step one

Cut a random length of tape and place the string in the middle. If you really want to punish yourself you can try and make them all the same length, but I really like them random and it’s much easier that way too.

For this step I cut loads and stuck them on the edge of the table so I had them ready and did them in batches so I wasn’t constantly cutting one then sticking it etc etc.


Step two

Fold over the wash tape and stick together. Again, I found it easier to do this step in bulk and then snip them in one go (see below).


Step three

Cut an upside-down ‘v’ shape into the end.



Step four

Hang them. 


#2: Twig decoration


You will need

Some twigs foraged from the nearest tree

White or cream spray paint

Fairy lights or decorations

Jug/vase/plant pot


Step one

Spray twigs.

Step two

Place in holder.

Step three



Just in case you want the tutorial, here’s how to make the candle holders in the photo.


#3: Hot chocolate stirrers

I saw one of these at the shops today, it was £3! These make a great little stocking filler, present topper-upper or gifts for the neighbours. Just swirl into hot milk for a luxury hot chocolate.


You will need

400g/ 14oz Milk chocolate

50g/ 1.5oz White chocolate

Condiment cups (if the closest McDonalds doesn’t have these you can buy them online, or use mini-muffin cases)

Mini mini marshmallows (these tiny fellows are from Waitrose)

Fudge pieces

Cake pop sticks

Edible glitter (optional)

(Makes 10-12. You need roughly 35g chocolate per cup so adjust the above to suit the number of hot chocolates you want to make).

For wrapping

Cellophane roll (available online or from craft shops)

Chrismassy ribbon or string


Step one

Chop the fudge into little chunks so that they’re roughly in proportion with the marshmallows.

Step two

Melt the chocolate slowly in the microwave and put into piping bags. You can temper it if you want, but given that you won’t see much of it, it might not be worthwhile. I go into a bit more detail as to how to temper chocolate here.


Step three

Fill cup to near the brim with milk chocolate. Add a little white and swirl in with a cocktail stick.

Place stick in and surround with fudge and marshmallows.

Leave to set.


Step four

Dust on a little glitter.


Step five

Wrap up. Cut a square of cellophane wrap and place cup in the centre, bring corners up to the middle and secure. I used a loom band to do this, you could use a small elastic band or go straight in with the ribbon/string.

Trim off the corners and ‘foof’.


Go on. There must be one spare you can treat yourself to?

Drip drop

A couple of months ago my lovely housemate got engaged. A couple of weeks ago we celebrated that fact.

I decided I wanted to make some party food. Given that we’re fast approaching Christmas (I mean, it’s the 17th November already, what?) this little series of posts should furnish your party season with delightful nibbles and may double as last minute Christmas present/hostess gifts.

This one falls into the second category, so get online and buy yourself some cellophane bags and a roll of ribbon, your colleagues and your milk man will never have been happier. Well, I hope their lives are better than that, but either way, there won’t be any disappointment, and that’s all anyone’s looking for at Christmas.


Things you need

200g/7 oz White chocolate

200g/7 oz Milk chocolate

200g/7 oz Dark chocolate

Decorations (I used freeze dried raspberries, fudge pieces and pecans)

Cocktail sticks

Piping bags or strong sandwich bags.

Cellophane (from a florist or a craft shop, or you can use greaseproof but the bottoms won’t be shiny)

Food thermometer (ideally)


Step 0.5

Prepare your toppings if they need preparing. I wanted my drops to be quite small so I chopped up my fudge and pecans.


Step one

Now. This is the first time I have actually tempered chocolate. It was easier than I expected and well worth it for the shiny finish. I encourage it. I also encourage the purchase of a thermospatula. I’m not being paid to say that, it’s changed my life (in a small but significant way).

If you’re joining me on the tempering train you need to split the chocolate into a third/two thirds split. Ignore the photo above and just chop it all into big chunks.  I learned as I went with this one.


Step two

Place a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water; make sure the water isn’t touching the pan.

Add two thirds of the chocolate and allow to melt slowly. Stir occasionally. Mainly so you can feel like you’re doing something productive.

Bring to 45 degrees C and remove from the heat.


Step three

Add the rest of the chocolate and stir until its melted in. Keep stirring until the whole lot has cooled to 28 degrees C.

Step four

Place back on the heat and bring to 32 degree C.

Step five

Take back off the heat and dry the bottom of the bowl with a tea towel. Trust me, you don’t want water in your chocolate.

Step six

Pour into a piping bag.

Don’t trim the end yet. In fact, once you have twisted the opening to close it you should push any chocolate in the tip end back towards the rest, otherwise it will cool and solidify there while you’re tempering the rest.

Step seven

Repeat with the rest of the chocolate.


Step eight

Lay down the cellophane and start piping.

You want to hold the piping bag at a 90 degree angle to the table and squeeze. The chocolate will flood into a lovely little pool.

Add a small blob of another colour on top and swirl about with a cocktail stick to create a marbled effect.


Step nine

Sprinkle your decorations on top.

Some cranberries would go down well for christmas drops, but I was explicitly instructed not to buy any. These freeze dried raspberries looked rather pretty and tasted good too. See children? Compromise isn’t always bad.


Step ten

Keep going until you run out of chocolate/the will to live. But look…so shiny. You did well to temper it, it was worth it after all.


Step eleven

Go forth and make someone’s day.


This week we found ourselves in a bit of a fix. The plan was fondue, but somebody (Peter) forgot to book it. I was a bit sad when I discovered this (months of over eating to stretch my stomach for the big occasion) still, I couldn’t stay grumpy for long, as the gentleman concerned got himself to John Lewis and bought a fondue set. Sometimes it really pays off to have housemates with ridiculous boyfriends.

When I got word that fondue was back on, I figured I would contribute a little something to the dipping pot. So here’s a double whammy post. My seeded granary wonder bread, Pete’s (mainly Nigella’s) cheese fondue.



You will need

For the bread:

300g/10.5 oz Wholemeal bread flour

200g/7 oz Strong white bread flour

150g/5 oz Mixed seeds

300ml/10 fl oz Cold water

7g Dried yeast

7g Salt

For the fondue:

400g/14 oz Gruyere cheese

400g/14 oz Camembert (although after doing this, P and I think you’re safer with Emmental as it has a more similar melting point to Gruyere)

400ml/13.5 fl oz White wine (just buy the one that is most reduced from the highest price)

4 Tablespoons Kirsch

3 Teaspoons cornflour

Clove of garlic

Some charcuterie, just because.

(Serves 6)


Step one

Combine the two bread flours salt and yeast in a bowl. Keep the yeast and salt as far apart as you can. The salt has a nasty track record for bullying the yeast.

Step two

Add the water and mix with your hand until combined. You don’t need the water to be warm, at least that’s what Paul Hollywood says on EVERY EPISODE OF BAKE OFF. Something about the protein structure. I’m inclined to bow to his superior knowledge.

You may need to add a tiny splash more water if your dough isn’t coming together.


Step three

Lightly cover your work surface with olive oil so that you don’t add loads more flour to the dough as you go. Another Hollywood gem.

Knead the dough by pushing it forward as far as it will go and then folding it back. Turn and stretch again. Repeat repeat repeat.

At first the dough will be fairly brittle and will break as you do this. Don’t worry, it will get softer and more stretchy as you go. It will also merge back together more easily (you’ll know what I mean when you get there)

As it’s wholemeal flour you need to keep going on this for about 15 minutes, it should form a much smoother ball that the one you started with when you’re done.


Step four

Lightly oil a bowl and place dough in. Cover with clingfilm and leave for an hour to rise.


Step five

Turn dough back out onto the work surface (it’s ok if you have an overwhelming urge to put your face in it – I mean, don’t actually do it, but thinking it doesn’t make you weird).

Flatten out with your fingers (or your fist if you need a small moment of therapy). Add the mixed seeds evenly over the surface of the mix. You will feel like you have a lot, but they disappear quite quickly.

Fold the corners and sides back into the middle and knead for a minute or so until the seeds are distributed throughout.

Scoop your hands around the edges to form the dough into a ball.


Step six

Dust a large baking tray with flour and place the dough on top. Slash the top in a criss cross pattern and sprinkle the top with a bit more flour.

Leave for another hour to prove.


Step seven

Bake on 200C/gas mark 6/400F for 40-45 minutes. Keep an eye on it as it bakes incase any of the edge starts to catch.

Turn the bread over when you think it’s done and tap on the bottom. If it sounds quite hollow then you’re good.

Step eight

Try to resist biting right into the loaf. It’s time to make the fondue.


Step nine

Make sure your fondue set is ready to go and the table is set. You’re going to want to eat straight away when you see a pot of melted cheese.


Step ten

Grate the Gruyere and chop up the Camembert (although I really do recommend you use Emmental instead, the Camembert took a loooooong time to melt and was insanely rich). You will have MOUNTAINS of the stuff. Pete’s actually 6’3″…

Step eleven

Put a the wine into a saucepan on a medium heat. Bring this to a point just before it starts to simmer and start adding the cheese, stirring with a whisk and allowing it to melt in stages.

Step twelve

Once all the cheese has melted pop in the garlic and season to taste. Bring the heat up to a bubble and keep whisking until it is combined with the wine (though again – Camembert wasn’t co-operating fully with us on this one). Finally add the Kirsch and cornflour (probably best to mix the two beforehand so the cornflour doesn’t clump up).

Turn the heat down and allow to thicken for a few minutes before removing from the hob and pouring into the fondue pot. Light the burner/candle underneath.


Step thirteen

Sink into a very well deserved and rather disgusting cheese coma.

Just ten more minutes…

Don’t get me wrong, I’m loving that Spring is having a little flirt with us at the moment. The evenings are getting longer and the sun is playing peek-a-boo. At the same time, sometimes you wake up a little bit earlier than intended at the weekend or you just want to shut it all out for a little Sunday nap. So here’s a really quick and easy make for catching some Zzz or maybe adding to a little pamper package for Mother’s Day? More on that later…


You will need

Some pretty scrap fabric (the darker and thicker the better)

Bias binding (mine was 12mm thick)

17″/43cm Elastic

Needle and thread/Sewing machine


Downloadable template


Step one

Pin the template to at least two layers of fabric. At this stage you might also want to sandwich a little padding in between, but I didn’t have any to hand so just went without.

I just used some scrap fabric for this make, but I would advise you choose a darker palette than this if you can as it will block out more light.

Cut around the template, leaving a small seam allowance, a couple of mm will do as you aren’t turning inside out.


Step two

Remove template and re-pin your fabric layers together. You will see I used some of the adhesive fabric I used for my bookbinding tutorial. This was an error. The iron isn’t a huge fan of this material and vice versa. You will see later.

ANYWAY. Sew around the edge to bind all the layers together. Make sure that if you are using patterned fabric the right side is facing out.


Step three

So, I never knew how to sew on bias binding properly until a few months ago. It changes your life. Seriously.

You will notice that one of the folds in your bias binding is slightly smaller than the other side. You want to open the shorter side out and pin to the edge of your fabric as shown above.

Note that the pins are facing outwards, this is because I was using a sewing machine and this way it just runs straight over, no need to pull them out as you go. If you’re hand sewing you probably want to pin the opposite way so you still have hands left at the end.


Step four

Sew around the binding, on the outer edge of the fold (see above).



Step five

Turn the bias binding over and use an iron to press it down (mainly for the benefit of people using a sewing machine)

Pin the elastic under the bias on both sides. You want to adjust this to size depending on who you’re making it for, 17″/43cm was a little on the large side for me so perhaps go a bit smaller or measure round the back of your head from temple to temple. Don’t forget to take a bit of length off so it holds by the stretch.


Step six

Sew the top of the bias binding as close to the edge as you can. Use a close zigzag stitch to secure elastic to the front of the mask, this will stop any light seeping through the gaps at the sides.

(you can see that the heat of the iron on the adhesive wrinkled my top fabric layer quite a lot, this shouldn’t happen to you!)


Step seven

3, 2, 1, nap.

Have a great week folks!