Sticky Apple-filled Cinnamon Buns

“My Anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hon…”
Easy Apple Cinnamon Buns - The Cardiff Cwtch

So, I’ve gotten a bit obsessed with Conspiracy Theory Podcasts. I know, I know! See, my favourite women’s history podcast (Queens, in case you’re wondering – it’s completely brilliant) is kind of between episodes at the moment and so I went hunting for something else to listen to on the morning dog walk (read: muddy trudge in the drizzle to the local park). I found an episode about Amelia Earhart and conspiracy theories concerning her disappearance (THE WOMAN JUST VANISHED) and woops! I kind of fell down a hole. But you know what? They’re kind of perfect listening for gloomy Autumn days and even darker nights in. A bit of history, a lot of mystery… and, sometimes – yeah – a heavy helping of nonsense.

But what do Conspiracy Theory Podcasts have to do Cinnamon Buns, I hear you asking. Absolutely nothing. Except for the fact that they seem to be soundtracking most of my cooking and baking at the moment. For example, as I was baking these very sticky buns the other day, I was listening to a couple of episodes talking about how the Sugar Industry for a long time secretly fiddled scientific studies to throw the blame on fat for Heart Disease instead of sugar. If you’ve got any recommendations on podcasts, I’d love to hear them; I’m always looking for something new to listen to in between episodes of The High Low and Queens. 🙂

Anyway, Cinnamon Buns! I mentioned last week that I’m a big fan of sticky buns in all their forms, but the cinnamon variety are a favourite of mine – especially this time of year. I usually pick up one on my weekly shop as a treat to scoff with a cup of tea when I get back, but I hadn’t quite cracked making them myself. Historically, I’m not the best at baking bread; I’m impatient when it comes to kneading the dough, and even though I’ve got a bread maker to do all the hard work for me – the instant yeast it requires never really creates the pillow-soft dough I’m after. Then last year I started experimenting with Dried Active Yeast and had a bit of a breakthrough on the whole process of making homemade bread when I made this Halloumi Loaf (HEAVEN). Having got the knack of kneading and proving, I moved straight on to buns and finally managed to put together an easy Cinnamon Bun recipe that worked (thanks to The Guardian Food How-To section – always a great place to start when you’re looking to develop your own twist on a classic recipe). A sweet, springy dough perfect for rolling around the sticky cinnamon filling. These doughy buns however, are a little bit extra thanks to the added apple – an easy addition that gives the buns a little something special. Top with whatever topping you fancy – whether that’s cream cheese frosting, sugar glaze, or the cinnamon-spiced icing I went for here – and scoff ideally within a couple of days. As with most homemade bakes, they’re best scoffed fresh out of the oven. 🙂

Apple filled Cinnamon Rolls easy - The Cardiff Cwtch

Sticky Apple-filled Cinnamon Buns

Sticky, doughy and full of cinnamon-spiced apple pie filling. What’s not to like?
Ingredients
  •  3 apples (any variety you fancy)
  • 2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 100g soft brown sugar
  • 2 tsp cardamom seeds
  • 300 ml whole milk
  • 15g dried active yeast
  • 50g melted butter (cooled)
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 420g plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
Cinnamon Rolls with Apple Pie Filling - The Cardiff Cwtch
Method
  1. First things first, make the filling. Peel and finely chop the apples – then boil them in water for about 20 minutes, until they’re soft. Get rid of the water, then mash them. Stir in the brown sugar and cinnamon, then set aside and leave to cool.
  2. Gently bring the milk to the boil with the ground cardamom. Pour into a mixing bowl, leave it to cool slightly (down to about 37°C) and then sprinkle in the yeast. Put the bowl somewhere warm (I like to pop mine in the airing cupboard!) until the yeast has dissolved and activated (you should see some bubbles or foam forming over the surface of the milk).
  3. Next, stir in the melted butter, sugar and egg.
  4. Gradually pour in the flour and salt, mixing together to make a sticky dough.
  5. Next, knead the dough. If you’ve got a fancy dough hook on your mixer, use that – if not, you’re going to have to roll up your sleeves to get to work. I don’t like to add anymore flour, so the dough will be really sticky and impossible to work with at first – but stick at it (stick being the operative word!) and slowly everything will come together to create a smooth, pliable, stretchy dough.
  6. Pop it into a clean, lightly-greased bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and then leave the dough to double in size in a warm place for about an hour.
  7. Set the oven to 200°C.
  8. Next, roll out the dough into a rectangle about a centimetre thick – then spread with the apple filling. Roll it tightly into a sausage shape, then cut into six equally sized buns. Place the buns into a lined, deep baking tray. Bake for 25 minutes until well-risen and golden, then leave to cool.
  9. Top with cream cheese frosting or icing, then scoff! 🙂
Easy Cinnamon Bun Recipe with Apple Filling - The Cardiff Cwtch

Happy Friday everyone! 💛

My Anti-Aging Starter Kit

Death Becomes Her…

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Let’s call this, “I’m a month or so away from turning 34 and need to start doubling down”, because the truth is that I’ve been a little bit lazy when it comes to anti-aging products up until now.  Although, maybe “lazy” isn’t really the right word.  First of all, I’ve got sensitive skin that’s acne prone and so have pretty much stuck to the same old skin routine and the same products all the way through my twenties.  The thought of  suddenly introducing active serums, acids and retinols felt a little bit… reckless. I mean, if it ain’t broke (or covered in hives and zits) don’t fix it, right?  Secondly, I haven’t – until recently – felt like I was clued up enough on this sort of stuff to take the plunge.  Which brings me to my third point, I haven’t really been bothered enough about anti-aging beauty to get clued up.

Honestly, I’ve always been really skeptical about anti-aging beauty products.  The whole anti-aging game has always felt a little “Death Becomes Her” to me (Remember that movie?  One of my all time faves!).  Isn’t it all just really, really expensive snake oil, and in the end a bit… pointless?  I’m not afraid of wrinkles – aging is a privilege, after all – but I wouldn’t mind holding off the effects for just a little while longer.  And if those products can solve some of my other skin issues then that’s a plus!  So over the past six months or so I’ve been swotting up on the ingredients of various anti-aging products and learning a little bit about what they claim to do, and then picked some inexpensive but highly-rated products from the pool to slip into my daily skin routine. I’m still mostly clueless and a little bit baffled and suspicious of it all, it has to be said.  But hey, I’ll tell you what I’ve learned so far, what I’m using and then I’ll let you know how I’m getting on in a couple of months. 🙂

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A313 Vitamin A Pommade

If the Beauty Boffins are to be believed then we should all be slipping a Retinol/Vitamin A product into our routine and using it three times a week.  Retinol is naturally occurring in the human body; it works hard to balance things out – it regulates oil production, stimulates collagen and increases cell turnover.  Not only is it claimed to be great for treating acne and pigmentation, it’s also said to be the miracle ingredient that boosts hydration and smooths out fine lines and wrinkles.  However, it can be strong stuff; it can increase irritation for those who suffer from eczema and rosacea, and can even increase the skin’s sensitivity to sunlight.  It also breaks down in sunlight.  So it’s important to ease yourself in slowly, never use it in conjunction with acids, only on bone dry skin (as Vitamin A reacts with water), use it only at night and always in conjunction with a day cream that’s high in SPF.

So, funny story, I actually picked up a double pack of the A313 Vitamin A Pommade for $5 while I was in the States.  I found it lurking at the bottom of a bucket at a Consignment Store of all places (basically leftover stock from Amazon sold on the cheap); no one had snagged it yet because it’s kind of difficult to tell what it actually is unless you’ve seen it before and read up about it – which is exactly what I’d done a couple of months earlier.  Previously known as Avibon, it’s one of those cult French Pharmacy Beauty Products that’s been raved about by celebrities and beauty bloggers alike – and honestly, I couldn’t believe my luck when I found it.  I’ve started using it twice a week to ease my skin in, and no more than a pea-sized amount for the whole face.  It’s got a texture like vaseline, hasn’t really got a fragrance and isn’t honestly the most pleasant thing that I’ve put on my face at night – but tell you what, it’s a bulldozer when it comes to cystic acne.  As for pigmentation and wrinkles, I’ll let you know!

La Roche-Posay Vitamin C Serum

On the nights I don’t use the A313 Pommade, I stick to old faithful and drench my skin in the Kiehls Midnight Recovery Concentrate – but up until now, I’ve been yet to add an oil or serum to my morning routine.  Enter the La Roche-Posay Vitamin C Serum.  We all know the health benefits of swigging orange juice and loading up on Vitamin C this time of year, but how exactly does it help skin?  Well, Vitamin C is basically a strong anti-oxidant that combats “Free Radicals”.  Great.  What the hecky peck are Free Radicals?  Free Radicals are essentially unstable atoms created by things such as pollution, cigarette smoke and the sun.  They can damage the skin by causing pigmentation and can also break down collagen in the skin and therefore cause wrinkles.  Tada.  Vitamin C neutralises Free Radicals and helps skin cells regenerate.  Not only that, but it can boost collagen production (effectively smoothing over wrinkles) and also fights pigmentation.

I was interested in adding a Vitamin C Serum because I’ve got quite a bit of pigmentation on my cheeks left over from cystic acne, and anything that’s going to kick butt against Free Radicals sounds good to me.  So I’ve slipped in the La Roche-Posay Vitamin C Serum into my morning routine; one drop of the stuff goes a long way, and I massage it into my skin before adding my daily moisturiser (the Nivea Daily Essentials Rich Moisturing Cream).  I chose it because a serum is the suggested way of introducing Vitamin C into your routine, but also because this one claims to be pretty good for sensitive skin – and so far so good!  It’s a little tacky as it sinks in, so I was worried about how it was going to sit under my foundation – but actually it sits under it quite well and adds a little extra glow!  Too soon to tell whether it’s working, but I’ll let you know.

Lancôme Génifique Youth Activating Eye Cream

So of all anti-aging products, I’ve always felt like eye creams are the biggest scam out there, and I promised myself that I’d never fork out a fortune on one of them.  However, I have introduced a couple into my morning routine, but not because they claim to prevent under-eye wrinkles.

I went to a beauty masterclass with Bobbi Brown not so long ago, and one of my burning questions to the makeup artist hosting the class was, “How do I stop the midday panda eye?”  I wear both a liquid and kohl eyeliner and use smudge-proof mascara, but no matter what I do or how I apply it all – I end up with dark smudges under my eyes by lunchtime.  The answer – I have on good authority – is eye cream.  Eye cream creates a base for your foundation, keeps it in place and therefore prevents things like mascara from sticking to it.  Tada.  And it works!  Who’d have thunk it?!  So, I go between the Elemis Peptide4 Eye Recovery Cream (which I was kindly gifted) and this little travel pot of the Lancôme Génifique Youth Activating Eye Cream.  Make no bones about it, this shiz is expensive stuff and I doubt I’ll be repurchasing, but it claims to fight under eye puffiness, dark circles and crows feet – in case you’re interested.  I don’t know if it does those things honestly, my under-eye area isn’t a priority for me, but it smooths on beautifully, works well under makeup and you barely need any of it to cover the whole area.

Jade Roller

(Another Consignment Store bargain!) So you’ve probably seen every blogger on the planet sneak a Jade or Rose Quartz Roller into their latest flatlay, and yeah, they look pretty – but do they actually do anything other than decorate a nightstand?  Turns out, yeah, they do.  Traditional Chinese Derma Rollers made from gemstones are used for facial massage – which is recommended by the Beauty Boffins to aid lymphatic drainage and boost circulation.  Combined, this can reduce puffiness, tone and brighten the skin.

It definitely gives my husband a good chuckle when he crawls into bed and sees me paint-rollering my skin last thing at night, and whether it’s actually doing anything remains to be seen at this point – but I like it!  I use it on the nights when I’m not wearing the A313 Pommade and use it straight after popping on the Kiehls Midnight Recovery Oil.  It’s cooling, takes only a few minutes and feels really, really nice!

Lots of Water!

Lastly – and the cheapest thing in my new anti-wrinkle arsenal… Water, and lots of it!  I’ve always been really, really bad at hitting the recommended water intake – other than when I’m on holiday.  When I’m out in the sun, I’m always swigging from a bottle of the good stuff and whaddya know? My skin always looks so much better for it!  It’s hydrated, clear and bright – and that’s what I want on the daily.

What anti-aging products are in your beauty bag at the moment?  Or are you an anti-aging skeptic like me?  Any recommendations, let me know!  Have a great week! 🙂

 

Snapshots from Florida

A Hurricane, A Pelican and a Balcony Bathtub…
Snapshots from Florida

Oh, these are exactly the sort of pictures I want to look at just after getting in from the soggy morning dog walk.  Pictures of fizzy, tango sunsets and palm trees and clear water and blackened Mahi Mahi Tacos.  Ugh, I ache!  I get asked a lot, “Why Florida?”  Why do I go back year after year when I could be exploring somewhere new for my summer vaycay?  And I guess the answer is; I don’t want to go anywhere else.  Southwest Florida is home – in a way.  Not just for me, but for Sunny too.  We’ve both been going there since we were teenagers and know it so, so well by now, that we never experience that foreign feeling you get during the first week of a holiday where you’ve arrived somewhere you’ve never been before and need to spend a couple of days figuring out where everything is, where’s good to eat etc.  And yeah, some might say that’s all part of the adventure of going somewhere new, but I love the familiarity of Florida; there’s always a massive sigh of relief when I get off the plane at Miami Airport (and not just because, yay! I survived the flight!), but because the holiday starts immediately.  And boy, did we need it this year!

I also get asked a lot why I don’t go anywhere near Orlando.  The truth is that there’s so much more to Florida than just the parks.  The Gulf Coast and The Keys are where the real party’s at – and our favourite spot by far is Naples.  Not only has it got some of the most beautiful beaches in the world and plenty of things do when you’re not topping off your tan, but it’s so quiet – especially during the summer and early Autumn.  And honestly, I’m a little nervous about shouting too loudly about how much I love it there because it’s always felt like a bit of a secret – and I kind of want to keep it all to myself.  This year, we spent two lovely weeks there chilling out by the pool (all the while keeping our eye on Hurricane Dorian out in the Atlantic), eating a lot of Tacos and filling our suitcase with lots of bargains from the outlet malls scattered either side of I75. 🙂

Snapshots from Florida

I pretty much lived in this Hawaiian Shirt while I was out there.  One of the best things about taking a late August/early September holiday is that most of the summer fashion goes on sale just before you leave, and everything in this picture was a total steal.  I spotted the shirt trawling the sale section of ASOS and decided that not only was it the ugliest shirt I’d ever seen, but that I had to have it.  The heart-shaped sunglasses were £3 from H&M (I get so many compliments when I wear them, which drives my husband absolutely nuts because he HATES them), and the bag and denim skirt were bargains from F&F at Tesco for £8 and £7 respectively.  I was a little sad packing away these yellow tassel sliders from Zara the other day – I can’t wait to wear them again next year!

Snapshots from Florida
Snapshots from FloridaSnapshots from Florida
Snapshots from Florida
Snapshots from Florida
Snapshots from Florida

For the final week of the holiday, we packed up the car and headed down to The Keys.  I used to stay on one of the middle islands called Islamorada with my parents and brother when I was teenager, and last year I took Sunny down there for a few days – knowing that he’d absolutely love the island vibe coupled with the incredible wildlife and fishing.  He did love it, and so this year we booked in for a week at my favourite hotel there, Cheeca Lodge, as a treat to finish the holiday with a bang.  It’s a beautiful hotel anyway – no matter what room you end up staying in – but lucky us – we got upgraded to one of the mini suites in the main lodge, which came with a balcony bathtub!  Over our five or so days there we went fishing, lounged around the pool, went snorkelling on the reef and ate Mahi Mahi Tacos pretty much every single night. 🙂

Snapshots from FloridaSnapshots from Florida
Snapshots from Florida
Snapshots from Florida

We also ended up rescuing a pelican.  From day one there was a very friendly pelican hovering around at the bottom of the pier waiting to score a fish from anyone who happened to be fishing there – sometimes even when it was still on the hook!  I kind of grew a bit of a soft spot for her, and so it was heartbreaking to head down there one morning to find her hobbling around with a massive fishing lure stuck in her flipper.  Luckily, she was so tame that Sunny and a few other guests were able to wrangle her and then gently tease out the lure, and she flapped away to fish another day. 🙂

Snapshots from FloridaSnapshots from Florida
Snapshots from Florida
Snapshots from Florida
Snapshots from FloridaSnapshots from FloridaSnapshots from Florida

Have a lovely weekend! 🙂

Toffee Apple Cookies

Finally! Happy “Fall” Y’all
Toffee Apple Cookies

It’s officially the first day of Autumn, and officially – in my book anyway – the start of the best season of the year.  One of the best bits about coming home from holiday (aside from being reunited with my favourite fur-ball, obviously) was the thought of coming home to chunky knits, boots (ones that are perfect for stomping on perfectly crunchy leaves), cold air and lots and lots of baking involving apples.  I say that not because apple pies and crumbles and muffins are quintessentially autumnal (blimey, that’s a big phrase for a Monday afternoon…), but because I’ve actually got a tree full of the things for the very first time.

Back when Sunny and I moved into our house here in Cardiff three years ago, we bought a pair of apple trees (well, they were more like a couple of twigs really) for a couple of quid each.  And this year – almost as if by magic (because God knows what we did differently) – one of them is full of apples!  I’m going to be baking this Apple Pie Cake ten times over, I think! As well as these Toffee Apple Cookies.  I tried something similar whilst I was out in the States on holiday (controversial opinion, but America does “Fall” Baking so much better than we do) and had to come up with my own version, and here it is: a lovely soft cookie full of spiced apple pie filling and toffee chunks, and drizzled with a salted caramel sauce.  Once baked, warm them up in the microwave for thirty seconds for oozing toffee that won’t play havoc with your fillings! 😉 Just make sure you use a type of apple that doesn’t go too soggy and holds its shape when boiled – like pink lady or braeburn!

Toffee Apple Cookies
Toffee Apple Cookies
Toffee Apple Cookies
Ingredients
  • 150g of apples, diced into small pieces
  • 250ml water
  • 100g light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 50g of toffee, cut into small pieces
  • 125g butter
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 100g dark muscovado sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 250g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • salted caramel salt to serve (buy it in store, or try this recipe)
  • sea salt to serve
Toffee Apple Cookies
Method
  1. First things first, whip up the apple pie filling. Chop up your apples into small, cookie-sized chunks and pop them into a saucepan. Boil up in the water, along with the light brown sugar and cinnamon for about 20 minutes. The apples will be ready once they’ve softened, but still have a little bite to them.
  2. Set the oven to 180°C. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter, cinnamon, caster sugar and dark muscovado sugar. Stir in the egg, then mix in the apple pie mix and toffee pieces. Stir in the flour to make a stiff dough, then spoon small blobs onto a lined baking tray – making sure they’ve got plenty of room to spread.
  3. Bake the cookies for twenty minutes, then transfer them onto a wire rack and leave to cool.
  4. To serve, warm them up in the microwave for thirty seconds and serve drizzled with caramel sauce and sprinkled with sea salt. Yum! 🙂

Have a lovely week! 🙂

“On The Go” Huevos Rancheros Wraps

“Ten Minutes to Get Out The Door” Breakfasts Wrapped. Phew.
Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Wraps

Happy September! Can you believe it? Tell you what – and brace yourselves because on the list of unpopular opinions this one’s right up there – I’m so relieved that it’s September. I mean, who the hell would take the September chill over those sticky (or soggy, this is Wales after all…) August afternoons? Me, that’s who. I’ve always loved that fresh September air; there’s something really exciting about that seasonal shift and the whole “back to school” vibe that swings around this time of year. I’ve got plans, man. This year though, I’m just feeling relieved that the summer’s over; I ended up having to take a bit of a break from everything due to some health stuff that’s been going on in the background (you’re probably wondering why I spontaneously dropped off the planet at the start of July, well, tada!). I’m fine now, and I might tell you a bit more about what’s been happening soon, but right now I can’t wait to just pack Summer away with my flip flops, move onto Autumn and get back to shoving a weekly helping of food porn in your face. 😉

Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Wraps
Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Wraps

Speaking of which, I don’t know about you but I could eat Mexican Food every day of the week, any time of the day – including for breakfast. If you’ve never tried Huevos Rancheros before, it’s basically a “Rancher’s Breakfast” of fried eggs, spiced tomatoes, peppers and onions all served up on a tortilla with a hefty helping of refried beans and sometimes a few breakfast potatoes. Yum. I LOVE it; I first tried it out in Arizona before I’d really got a taste for Mexican food and just fell in love with the flavours. Plus, anything with fried eggs is good in my book. Nowadays I like making it at home for brunch on the weekend, but it’s just too much faff for the middle of the week when I’m rushing out the door. Except *drum-roll please* when it’s in wrap form. These Huevos Rancheros Wraps involve a little prep ahead of time, but once they’ve been made up they’ll keep in the freezer or the fridge until you’re ready to heat them up, scoff and go. The only thing they’re missing from the usual list of ingredients are the fried eggs which I’ve swapped out for a smoked paprika omelette. Obviously I’d prefer them fried, but I’m not about getting runny egg all down my outfit just as I’m heading out the door. No thanks.

Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Wraps

“On The Go” Huevos Rancheros Wraps (makes 6)

Ingredients
  • 400g potatoes, skinned, diced, boiled (until soft but still formed) and drained
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 200g roasted red peppers, diced
  • 50g fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 tbsp hot sauce (Let’s be honest, it’s got to be Cholula!)
  • 1 tsp chipotle paste
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 600g refried beans (I really like Lunchito’s Refried Beans)
  • 6 tortilla wraps
  • 6 large eggs
  • 3 tsp of smoked paprika
  • 100g of finely grated cheese (Cheddar works, but Manchego rocks)
  • A good, non-stick frying pan – lightly greased with a little olive oil
  • 6 sheets of foil to wrap
  • 1 large avocado blended with sour cream
Huevos Rancheros Breakfast Wraps
Method
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the diced potatoes, onions, red peppers, coriander, hot sauce, chipotle paste, tomato paste and salt – then mix until everything’s coated and well-combined.
  2. Get your production line set up! In a fresh bowl, whisk together the eggs and smoked paprika and get your frying pan greased and on the hob on a medium heat. Pile up your tortillas, then heat up the refried beans as per the pack instructions – pouring them into a bowl.  On the other side of the hob, have your foil sheets ready to wrap.
  3. Pour a little (1/6th) of the egg mix into your frying pan and swirl it around to coat it (as you would if you were making an omelette).  Scatter a couple spoonfuls of the filling mix on top, then leave to cook for a minute.  Spread one side of one tortilla wrap with some of the refried beans, then place it face down on top of the egg and filling – press until it sticks.
  4. Flip the tortilla in the pan so that the egg side’s on top, then sprinkle with cheese. Slide the tortilla out of the pan and onto a foil sheet, then wrap it! Make sure not to let the tortilla cook for too long otherwise it’ll be way too crispy to wrap!
  5. Leave the wraps to cool, then store in the fridge or the freezer until you’re ready to heat them up and eat them (make sure to remove the foil if you’re planning on using the microwave!)
  6. Garnish with the Avocado Cream and some extra hot sauce, then scoff! 🙂

Have a great weekend! 💚