Price Points: Kitchen timers

Selection of kitchen timers | H is for Home

Kitchen timers are terribly undervalued kitchen tools. If it weren’t for our vintage Junghans wall mounted example many a meal, cake or loaf of bread would have been totally ruined!

I have a memory like a sieve and only its short, sharp ring alerts me to what I was doing half an hour ago. And we’ve noticed that Justin’s mum & dad could do with one too – they’re forever returning to the kitchen during cooking to check the clock on the oven instead of setting a timer and getting on with something else. It’s always good to accumulate a few Xmas pressie ideas so that’s gone on the list.

Here are three timers with various price tags, tick-tock and silent digital models, contemporary and vintage, plain black and brightly coloured, ones that ring and ones that quack! Take your pick!

  1. Tesco Basics timer – £2.50, Tesco
  2. Vintage kitchen timer – £22.00, H is for Home
  3. Alessi duck kitchen timer – £35.00, Selfridges

Cakes & Bakes : French pear tart

Slice of home made French pear tart | H is for Home

It takes quite a few stages to make this French pear tart but it’s well worth the time and effort. If you don’t think you’ll have the time all in one day to do it, you can prepare most of it well in advance and bring it all together on the day you plan to bake & serve it.

Sweet tart dough ingredients in a food processor bowl | H is for Home Mixed sweet tart dough ingredients in a food processor bowl | H is for Home

You can whiz up the pastry, press it into the tart tin and freeze it… weeks in advance.

I must admit, it has got to be – by a country mile – the most delicious pastry I’ve ever made!

Peeled pears and squeezed lemon

You can cut corners (and time) by using tinned pears or simply omitting the poaching stage if using fresh fruit.

Almond cream in a food processor bowl with bottle of rum in the background | H is for Home

The almond cream can be made a couple of days before and left covered & chilled in the fridge until just before it’s due to be put in the oven.

Almond cream in sweet pastry case | H is for Home

My rectangular tart tin is so large that I had to double up the almond cream recipe and cut the pears into quarters rather than halves.

French pear tart before being put in the oven | H is for Home

The resulting tart is very attractive (not to mention photogenic!) and can be cut so each person gets a neat slice of pear.

Home made French pear tart | H is for Home

It’s moist and sweet – sweet enough to serve with a dollop of tangy crème fraîche or thick Greek yoghurt on the side.

Home made French pear tart, detail | H is for Home Home made French pear tart, detail | H is for Home

The perfect bake for a dinner party or daily treat.

French pear tart
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Cook Time
55 min
Cook Time
55 min
For the pastry
  1. 200g/7oz plain flour
  2. 60g/2oz icing sugar
  3. pinch of salt
  4. 125g/4½oz very cold butter
  5. 1 egg yolk
For the pears
  1. 3 medium pears
  2. 1 lemon
  3. 1 litre water
  4. 250g/9oz granulated sugar
For the filling
  1. 85g/3oz butter, softened
  2. 150g/5oz caster sugar
  3. 75g/2½ ground almonds
  4. 2tsp plain flour
  5. 1tsp cornflour
  6. 1 egg
  7. 2tsp dark rum or vanilla essence
  9. Home-made French pear tart ingredients
For the pastry
  1. Put the flour, icing sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a couple of times to combine
  2. Scatter the pieces of butter over the dry ingredients and pulse until the butter is cut in coarsely - you'll have pieces the size of oatmeal flakes and pea-size pieces and that's just fine
  3. Stir the egg, just to break it up, and add it a little at a time, pulsing after each addition
  4. When the egg is in, process in long pulses - about 10 seconds each - until the dough, which will look granular soon after the egg is added, forms clumps and curds
  5. Just before your pastry reaches this clumpy stage, the sound of the machine working the dough will change, so listen out
  6. Turn the dough out onto a work surface. Very lightly and sparingly - make that very, very lightly and sparingly - knead the dough just to incorporate any dry ingredients that might have escaped mixing
  7. Butter the tart tin and press the dough evenly along the bottom and up the sides of the tin. Don't be stingy - you want a crust with a little heft because you want to be able to both taste and feel it. Also, don't be too heavy-handed - you want to press the crust in so that the pieces cling to one another and knit together when baked, but you don't want to press so hard that the crust loses its crumbly shortbread-ish texture
  8. Freeze the pastry for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer, before baking
  9. Preheat the oven to 175ºC/375ºF/Gas mark 4
  10. Butter the shiny side of a piece of aluminium foil and fit the foil tightly against the pastry
  11. Bake the pastry for 25 minutes, then carefully remove the foil. If the pastry has puffed up, press it down gently with the back of a spoon
  12. Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer the pastry case to a cooling rack; keeping it in its tin
For the pears
  1. Peel the pears, leaving them whole
  2. Bring water, sugar and the juice of the lemon to a boil in a saucepan just large enough to hold the pears
  3. Add the pears to the boiling syrup, lower the heat so the syrup simmers and gently poach the pears until they are tender when pierced with a knife - about 15 minutes
  4. Cool the pears to room temperature in the syrup
For the filling
  1. Put the butter and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until the mixture is smooth and satiny
  2. Add the ground almonds and continue to process until well blended
  3. Add the flour, cornflour and egg. Process until the almond cream is homogeneous
  4. Add the rum or vanilla and process just enough to blend
To combine
  1. Fill the baked pastry case with the almond cream, spreading it even with an offset metal icing spatula
  2. Thinly slice each pear half crosswise, lift each half on a spatula and place carefully on to the almond cream to form an attractive pattern
  3. Bake the tart for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the almond cream puffs up around the pears and browns
  4. Transfer the tart to a wire rack to cool to just warm or to room temperature before removing it from its tin
  5. Allow to cool completely before serving
Adapted from Baking: From My Home to Yours
H is for Home Harbinger

Cakes & Bakes: Fat rascals

Home-made fat rascals and mug of tea | H is for Home

We were in Ilkley today – collecting items from auction and having a mooch around the charity shops.

flour and cubes of butter in a mixing bowl

We wandered passed Betty’s Tea Rooms, but didn’t go in – the breads and cakes in the window certainly looked good though.

Adding milk to fat rascal dough | H is for Home

Fat rascals are a famous offering from this establishment – and I decided to rustle up a batch when we got home. They’re quick and easy, so a perfect bake if you’re pushed for time (which I was if I wanted to get my Thursday recipe made, baked, photographed and written up in a couple of hours before posting in the evening.

fat rascals dough rolled and sliced | H is for Home

I used a traditional fat rascals recipe from Old Yorkshire Recipes by Joan Poulson (which you can get on Amazon for a penny!). It contained very sketchy instructions, so I checked some of my other recipe books. I found the exact recipe, with the exact, same instructions in Mary Hanson Moore’s A Yorkshire Cookbook. Even though Betty’s and Taylors of Harrogate trademarked the name ‘Fat Rascal’ in the 1980s, the pastries have actually been in existence since the 18th century at the latest.

Uncooked fat rascals on a baking sheet | H is for Home

We love this humble little bake – a bit soft biscuit, a bit rock cake, a bit scone. The Betty’s version is bigger and fancier with its cherry and almond decoration. My fat rascals have a simple sprinkle of sugar.

Home-made fat rascals cooling on a wire rack | H is for Home

They’re absolutely perfect with a cup of tea – we found that eating them just very slightly warm with cold butter was our absolute favourite, but all manner of preserves would work well too.

Fat rascals
Yields 24
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Cook Time
20 min
Cook Time
20 min
  1. 300g/10½oz plain flour
  2. 150g/5¼oz butter, chilled
  3. 75g/2⅔oz currants
  4. 37g/1⅓oz brown sugar
  5. pinch of salt
  6. 100ml/3½ fl oz milk
  8. Home-made fat rascals ingredients
  1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC/400ºF/Gas mark 6
  2. In a large mixing bowl, rub the butter into the flour
  3. Add the currants, sugar and salt
  4. Mix in the milk, enough to make a slack dough
  5. Roll out to ½" thick, cut into rounds and dust with icing sugar (I think caster sugar worked better)
  6. Put on to the greased baking sheet and bake for 20 minutes or until lightly browned
  1. Gorgeous served still warm with butter and fruit jam!
H is for Home Harbinger

Cakes & Bakes: Custard Cream cupcakes

Custard Cream cupcakes | H is for Home

I saw a photo of Custard Cream cupcakes on Pinterest last week and just had to try them out. I found the recipe on the Jane’s Patisserie blog.

Custard Cream cupcake dough | H is for Home

I haven’t made cupcakes in absolute ages, so they made a lovely change this week.

Custard Cream cupcakes before putting them in to cook | H is for Home

The addition of Bird’s Custard Powder to the batter mix instead of vanilla essence made it taste like a Custard Cream in cupcake form! They’re perfect for an afternoon snack with a tea or coffee – and great for kids’ parties too.

Custard Cream cupcakes before topping with buttercream | H is for Home

I think I may try a similar thing soon, next time with Chocolate Bourbons or Oreos – they’re just such fun!

Custard Cream cupcakes
Yields 30
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Cook Time
18 min
Cook Time
18 min
For the cake
  1. 225g/8oz butter
  2. 225g/8oz caster sugar
  3. 4 eggs, beaten
  4. 200g/7oz self raising flour
  5. ½tsp bicarbonate of soda
  6. 100g/3½oz custard powder
  7. 50ml/2fl oz milk
For the buttercream
  1. 200g/7oz butter, softened
  2. 400g/14oz icing sugar, sieved
  3. ½tsp vanilla extract
  4. 1-3tbsp milk
To decorate
  1. chocolate sprinkles
  2. Custard Creams
  4. Home-made Custard Cream cupcake ingredients
For the cake
  1. Preheat your oven to 180ºC/ºF/ Gas mark
  2. Line a muffin tray with 12-15 cupcake/muffin cases
  3. With a food processor or hand-held electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy Slowly add the beaten eggs, mixing continuously
  4. Sieve together the flour, bicarbonate of soda and custard powder before adding to the butter/sugar/egg mixture
  5. Add the milk one tablespoon at a time until the mixture becomes smooth
  6. Spoon the batter into the cupcake cases evenly (about ⅔ full) and bake for 15-18 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes away clean
  7. Remove from the muffin tray and leave to cool on a wire rack
  8. If you have leftover cake batter, repeat instructions 6 & 7
For the buttercream
  1. Beat the butter until smooth and gradually add the icing sugar stirring all the time
  2. Add the vanilla extract and the milk until your desired consistency
  3. Whisk again for 3-4 minutes until light & fluffy
  4. Spoon the buttercream into a piping bag, affix a piping tip, and decorate each cupcake with a swirl
  5. Scatter a little chocolate sprinkles
  6. Top each with a Custard Cream at a jaunty angle!
  1. Best eaten on the day. You can bake the cupcakes in advance, only decorating with buttercream and Custard Creams at the last minute.
H is for Home Harbinger

Cakes & Bakes: Coconut loaf cake

Home-made coconut loaf cake | H is for Home

If you remember, for last week’s Cakes & Bakes recipe, I was meant to bake a coconut loaf cake but I didn’t have any of the main ingredient.

Creamed sugar & butter

Justin enjoyed the resulting almond loaf so much that I had to make good on last week’s previously planned bake.

Coconut loaf cake batter in a loaf tin

Once again, this was a quick and easy cake to make. Cream the sugar & butter, mix together the wet ingredients, add together. Mix together the dry ingredients, add together. Bake. That’s it!

Cooked coconut loaf cake in its tin | H is for Home

Nothing quite beats the aroma of coconut cake baking in the oven… and if we thought the last loaf cake was delicious, this one raised the bar even further – coco-nutty (of course!), moist, sweet – just scrumptious!

Coconut loaf cake
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Cook Time
1 hr
Cook Time
1 hr
  1. 150g/5oz butter, softened
  2. 150g/5oz caster sugar
  3. 2 eggs
  4. 1tsp vanilla extract
  5. 6tbsp milk
  6. 150g/5oz plain flour
  7. 2tsp baking powder
  8. pinch of salt
  9. 100g/3½oz dessicated coconut
  11. Home-made coconut loaf cake ingredients
  1. Preheat the oven to 150ºC/300ºF/gas mark 2
  2. Grease a 450g/1lb loaf tin
  3. Using a food processor or electric whisk, cream the sugar and butter
  4. In a measuring jug, whisk the eggs, milk and vanilla extract
  5. With the processor/whisk still going, mix the wet mixture into the creamed butter & sugar a little at a time
  6. In another mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients well (flour, baking powder, salt, dessicated coconut)
  7. Add the dry mixture into the wet mixture in 3 stages, mixing after each addition
  8. Spoon into the greased loaf tin and level out using a spatula or back of a spoon
  9. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour or until golden brown on the top and a skewer inserted into the centre comes away clean
H is for Home Harbinger

Cakes & Bakes: Almond loaf cake

Home-made almond loaf cake | H is for Home

Today’s almond loaf cake wasn’t meant to happen; Justin requested a coconut cake that he could have with an afternoon cup of tea. We didn’t have any dessicated coconut in the store cupboard and it was out of stock when I went to by some from the supermarket.

Almond loaf cake batter in a a tin

A snap decision in Morrison’s saw me pick up a bag of ground almonds instead… and what a good decision that turned out to be.

Cooked almond loaf cake in its tin | H is for Home

A last-minute, quick, basic wet & dry recipe that turned out to be taste triumph!

Preparing to pipe chocolate on to almond loaf cake

A little drizzle of chocolate finished it off nicely.

Home-made almond loaf cake | H is for Home

A new one for my afternoon cake repertoire!

Almond loaf cake
Serves 8
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Cook Time
45 min
Cook Time
45 min
  1. 175g/6oz + 1tbsp golden caster sugar
  2. 150g/5oz butter, softened
  3. 2 eggs
  4. ½ tsp almond essence
  5. 4 tbsp milk
  6. 125g/4½oz plain flour
  7. 1½ tsp baking powder
  8. ¼ tsp salt
  9. 150g/5oz ground almonds
  10. 50g/2oz dark chocolate
  12. Home-made almond loaf cake ingredients
  1. Preheat the oven to 175ºC/325°F/Gas mark
  2. Grease a 450g/1lb loaf tin
  3. Cream the butter and sugar together
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time until well combined
  5. Stir in the almond essence and the milk
  6. In another mixing bowl, sieve together the flour, ground almonds, baking powder and salt
  7. Stir this into the wet ingredients in three batches, stirring well after each addition
  8. Spoon the batter into the prepared loaf tin, levelling out using a spatula or back of the spoon
  9. Sprinkle the tablespoon of sugar evenly over the top
  10. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes away clean
  11. Allow to cool in the tin for at least half an hour
  12. Break up the chocolate into a small heat-proof bowl
  13. Melt in a bain-marie or in 10-second bursts in a microwave
  14. Make a piping bag out of a triangle of parchment paper, fill with the melted chocolate and zig-zag over the top of the cake
  15. Serve
H is for Home Harbinger